The Inner Editor vs the Writer

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  • #198341
    Gilroy
    Participant
    • Topics - 24
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    So I’m working on this blog post and I’ve run into an interesting question.

    The inner editor tends to attack every writer at some time or another. It has many tactics it uses to berate and otherwise dislodge a writer from their writing track.

    I’ve got:
    Guilt
    Bullying

    What other tactics has your inner editor used to try to discourage you?

    Let’s discuss.

    #208700
    zette
    Moderator
    • Topics - 580
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    This is assuming that the Inner Editor is an enemy. It’s not — the Inner Editor is you and you control this faction of your writing ability. You can pretend that it has control and let that be an excuse not to write, or . . .

    You can take control of your own mind and put the Inner Editor part of the writing process to work where it will be helpful. That would be, of course, in the editing phase where you want your brain to be extremely critical over the words. Of course, you can let it go too far there, too. I have seen people edit every bit of originality out of their work in the name of perfect grammar until they have dull, dry prose no one will want to read.

    Learning to use the Inner Editor at the appropriate place and to use this power wisely is difficult. The first step is admitting you have control, though.

    #208722
    Gilroy
    Participant
    • Topics - 24
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    I agree with everything you say, Zette, and have that built into the post.

    But I’m trying to find a way to show people how they are hard on themselves and ways to work with it.
    So the post is as much psycological as it is writingly based, I guess.

    #208742
    zette
    Moderator
    • Topics - 580
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    Exactly. Which is why the first thing you have to admit is that the Inner Editor is not some outside force. It’s you, right there in your own brain. You can take control.

    #208701
    J.A. Marlow
    Moderator
    • Topics - 311
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    Procrastination (This is a sneaky one.)
    Derision (You think this is good? Really? Seriously?)
    Hopelessness (Ranging from “This will NEVER get done.” to “This will never come out right!”)
    Anguish (“This scene was perfect in my imagination. Why are the words coming out wrong?)

    Oh so many things it does…

    But only the creative side gets a cookie for working hard. The Internal Editor gets shut up in a box and shoved under the bed. Hah!

    J.A. Marlow
    The String Weavers, Salmon Run, Redpoint One series.

    Writer alter-ego of Dreamers Cove

    #208702
    Ashe Elton Parker
    Moderator
    • Topics - 435
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    I mainly get “This sucks!” And that feeling can encompass just my current project or all my wips at once. Usually doesn’t last more than a day, though.

    Ashe Elton Parker
    "Just love me, fear me, do as I say, and I will be your slave." ~ David Bowie as Jareth in Labyrinth
    ~*~
    Member since 1998.
    ~*~
    Look me up on Wattpad for some of my books!
    #208744
    ErinMH
    Moderator
    • Topics - 405
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    Maybe. Maybe not.

    This sounds very similar to people with depression being told to cheer up, or anyone with a mental illness being told that they’re weak, they just need to change the way they think, it’s all in their head, etc.

    We don’t know everything about the brain, about how thoughts or feelings are generated, or how bits are compartmentalized. We do know that, as with anything, some people are better at this than others. So I don’t think simply saying “Take control” is useful feedback.

    #208752
    zette
    Moderator
    • Topics - 580
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    Okay, I’ll admit that it’s not always the answer, but at the same time I think a lot of people never apply the ‘this is me, I have control’ idea to see if they can change their own behavior. I have said this to a few people and it has helped some of them, so I think it can be a useful place to start. Like anything in writing, it’s not going to be the answer for everyone, but it won’t hurt someone to at least look at the idea of taking control first and see if maybe a change in attitude and approach might not help.

    #208754
    ErinMH
    Moderator
    • Topics - 405
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    Fair enough. *smile*

    #208703
    MrGrey
    Participant
    • Topics - 12
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    I get bouts of inferiority strike me. I’m someone who respects and adores other people easily, but it comes at the cost of my own feeling of self-worth. When I sit down to write, the number one problem that comes to mind is “You really think you can make something worth reading? Something better than Terry Pratchett? You think you can become as skilled and prolific in the indie world as Dreamerscove or Zette? You can’t. It’s impossible.”

    It never takes into the account that I’ve only been doing indie publishing for two months. It only looks short-term, expects me to make it big within a month, and gets disheartened when I don’t.

    The way I beat it is to cram it into a box and keep writing, working on Autyre (my fantasy world) and getting fun and imaginative ideas; as soon as ‘making it big’ starts to factor into the equation of writing a book, that’s when things will start to go south!

    #208764
    J.A. Marlow
    Moderator
    • Topics - 311
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    And keep in mind that no one writes like Grey. We’re all looking forward to more “Grey” type stories. :P So many writers are still looking around for their voice. Wow, do you already have yours.

    J.A. Marlow
    The String Weavers, Salmon Run, Redpoint One series.

    Writer alter-ego of Dreamers Cove

    #208704
    Wandering Author
    Participant
    • Topics - 34
    • Replies - 369

    I have many moments when I think whatever I’m working on is not that great. (It doesn’t help right now that I started NaNo this year with the tiniest seed of an idea, so the story is weak and wobbling around. I even broke with the standard advice and went back to edit the entire beginning once. Now, I’m just going with it and I’ll fix it later, if I think there’s enough there to be worth bothering.) But I’ll tell you what helped me shut up my Inner Editor.

    I read an interview with Connie Willis, and she said she often thought when she was writing (before she was published, apparently) that no one would ever want to read anything she wrote. Connie Willis! Blackout and All Clear aren’t just books I’ve waited all my life to read, they’re books I’d rush back into a burning house to save if I thought I couldn’t get another copy. And a lot of her other books – Domesday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog leap to mind – are excellent, too. So if she could think that, well, it doesn’t prove I’m any good, but worrying that I am terrible isn’t a sure bet, either. So the only thing to do is keep on writing and see what comes out. Even if a lot of it is crap, maybe eventually I’ll get something good.

    #208753
    Wandering Author
    Participant
    • Topics - 34
    • Replies - 369
    ErinMH wrote:
    Maybe. Maybe not.

    This sounds very similar to people with depression being told to cheer up, or anyone with a mental illness being told that they’re weak, they just need to change the way they think, it’s all in their head, etc.

    We don’t know everything about the brain, about how thoughts or feelings are generated, or how bits are compartmentalized. We do know that, as with anything, some people are better at this than others. So I don’t think simply saying “Take control” is useful feedback.

    I agree with you, but I’d add one thought – and I say this as someone who has struggled to make any advice I get work, since I’m just so different from everyone around me. (Looking back on my childhood, I was more profoundly autistic than I realised at first when I finally figured out what was “wrong” with me.) There is advice that does not work. Ever. There are also cases where good advice is simply phrased in a way that makes it difficult for a particular person to make use of it, and cases where a person thinks the advice won’t work for them, but when they try it, it does work. I’ve had all those things happen.

    The point being, although no one should beat themselves up if they can’t make a certain piece of advice work, and there is certainly no “One Advice To Rule Them All” I know of, it can be helpful to at least ‘try on’ whatever works for someone else. If it doesn’t work, well, you’re a different person. If it does, you win. :) And that is advice I think at least some of us who are different need to hear. At least, in my case, I grew so used to hearing advice that was useless or worse than useless I learned to ignore anything anyone said to me. And in the process, I threw away a lot of good advice I wish I’d listened to a lot sooner.

    As far as Zette’s advice is concerned – on the one hand, the very idea of silencing my own mind is strange to me, something like suggesting you stop breathing. I can no more stop my thoughts than I can stop breathing for more than a few seconds. On the other, once I figured out that my Inner Editor was as fallible as the rest of me ;) and could be just as wrong, knowing that did help.

    #208705
    astropolis
    Participant
    • Topics - 21
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    I think the worst one is “You can’t say that, your mum will go ballistic!”

    I have learned now to give the inner editor a custard pie in the face and get on with writing the sex scene, fight, interrogation or whatever.

    OTOH the same mother sent me to an English Boarding School, so I can do torture and interrogation scenes from memory…

    #208811
    Wandering Author
    Participant
    • Topics - 34
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    astropolis wrote:
    I think the worst one is “You can’t say that, your mum will go ballistic!”

    I have learned now to give the inner editor a custard pie in the face and get on with writing the sex scene, fight, interrogation or whatever.

    OTOH the same mother sent me to an English Boarding School, so I can do torture and interrogation scenes from memory…

    As someone who survived the American educational system, I can assure you, we have just as much material for torture and interrogation scenes as anyone else. :P

    As for your main point, I may have been lucky. What would make my mother go ballistic was so unpredictable, I gave up trying to figure it out. I do worry about whether I’ve written what I wanted to write, but I don’t tend to worry about what anyone else will think. Yes, some readers have to like what we write or there’s not much point trying to publish it, but I can only try to write stories I’d like to read and hope others will share my tastes. Trying to please others is most of the way along the road to madness, in my opinion.

    And I am not excluding critters, editors, or anyone else from that statement. Although I’m open to learning from a crit or an editor’s notes, and fixing whatever I’ve learned wasn’t working, I can’t write the story wondering what they’ll say. Your mileage may vary, but I have to write for myself, then try to fix whatever doesn’t seem to work. (As a teenager, I learned one of my very first Important Writing Lessons – never, ever, ever write anything to try to impress a girl. There are only three possible outcomes: the girl will laugh hysterically – at you, not with you – or she will be bored – or, worst of all, she’ll be impressed and you’ll want to drown yourself in raw sewage once you re-read the drivel you just churned out. And if she’s impressed, she’ll expect more… :sick: Now, if you happen to impress a girl, that’s a different thing. Not always good, but not always bad. In that case, it depends very much on the details.)

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