Do you have a little voice in your head that says:
Wait a minute, that doesn’t sound right.
Is that a run-on sentence?
There has to be a better way of saying that. Thesaurus.com?
Your fifth grade grammar teacher would be so proud of you. Not!
Are you seriously going to ignore the squiggly line under the misspelled word?!
No one will understand this sentence. Reword it. NOW!
That little voice is called your internal editor, and it’s not just a terrible nag -- it’s also a destructive force that can throttle your creativity.
What’s worse: giving in to your internal editor and correcting a sentence or conflict here or there only emboldens that internal editor. The soft nag becomes a forceful command that will not be ignored. You’ve heard “don’t feed the animals.” Now, I’m telling you “don’t feed the internal editor.”
Well, at least not during your first draft.
The truth is, the internal editor provides an important job during the editing process. However, it is unwelcome in the creative process. During the creative stage, you should allow yourself the freedom to brain dump.
This is what’s called “writing the whole.” Instead of creating a lean draft and then inserting content afterwards, you should create a “fat” draft initially and then take away the unneeded content during the editing process.
But in order to do that, you must turn off the nitpicky part of your brain that’s constantly trying to edit and create the “perfect” story.
That sounds admirable, but the problem is, you won’t know what the perfect story is until afteryou’ve written it. By tweaking it here or there, you could be left with disparate, disjointed content. Instead of working on the next great American novel, you’re piecing together a literary Frankenstein. *cue thunder clap*
The internal editor needs something else to do during the creative process. Here are a few ways to shut off your internal editor, or at least distract it until you’re ready for editing:
Type with the screen black. If you’re working on a computer, turn the screen brightness all the way down. It will definitely feel weird at first, but it’s extremely freeing once you get the hang of it. This way, with the internal editor in the dark, you won’t have the irresistible urge to re-write that sentence or passage until you’re in editing mode mostly because you can’t see it to correct it.
When you type this way, brace yourself: you will have typos. You’ll probably even feel yourself making those typos as they happen. Instead of correcting it (which is pretty impossible in the dark), just take a space and then type the word again, this time correctly, and carry on. Remember, you can fix all of these errors at the end of your writing session when the ideas are no longer flowing.
Dictate your words. Similar to typing in the dark, you can also speak instead of write. This method eliminates the itch to correct yourself until the editing process.
Why? Because you literally cannot “see” your words until they’ve been converted into text.
Dictation is quick, easy, and in most cases, free. If you have a smartphone, you probably have a built-in recording app. If not, you can easily download one for free like Voice Recorder(Apple) or Audio Recorder (Android).
The next step is just to speak. You’ll be amazed at how many more words you can “write” by speaking instead of typing. This strategy speeds up the creative process and quiets the internal editor. Two for one!
Distract your internal editor. For some writers, it’s difficult to write in complete silence. Having the radio or television turned on at a low but decipherable volume in the background can give your internal editor something else to focus on while you get some work done.
Give yourself a word limit. The internal editor becomes less vocal when you force yourself to write to a certain word threshold within a specific amount of time, for example 1000 words in one hour. If you tell yourself, I’ve got to get this amount of words written in this specific time frame, you’ll find that the internal editor becomes more of an ally than a foe.
Negotiate with your internal editor. If your internal editor has a strong personality, you may find that it’s better to negotiate. For example, promise yourself to edit your draft at the end of each writing session.
But be sure to keep your promise because you can’t fool yourself.