Many writers struggle with their inner editor as they try to lay down words. Their inner editor might better be called their inner critic, a nagging voice that tells them that what they are doing is not good enough. These writers write and rewrite a sentence or a paragraph.
Their inner editor does little more than get in the way. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to gain the upper hand.
Who Is the Boss?
The first thing to do is to realize that you don’t have to let your inner critic rule. It is going to take some work to retrain this inner voice but it can be done. When your thoughts turn negative, stop. Interupt these negative notions.
You don’t have to let this kind of negative self-talk rule your writing time. Instead, replace it with something more positive. “Wait a minute. This is a really good idea.”
It is also helpful to look out for distortions. If your negative thoughts include things about how X ALWAYS happens, you NEVER get Y right, etc., recognize these for the fallacies that they are. Never and always are distortions but the more you use these terms the more likely you are to believe them.
Look for Positives
Instead, look for the positives in your work. Do you really like the chapter you roughed yesterday? Maybe your scene descriptions or your dialogue are especially good. Remind yourself of what you do well.
Something else that can help derail an inner critic is referring to complimentary words about your work. I keep a file of “kind” letters that I’ve recieved from editors and content experts that I’ve worked with. When my inner critic takes over, I get these letters out. “Hey, I’m good at this writing stuff!”
Finish a Draft
If you find yourself writing and rewriting the same page again and again, stop. Force yourself to move on. So much of what is wonderful about our writing comes about when we rewrite. But you can’t get to that point until you finish a draft. Make yourself move forward.
When I sit down to begin writing, I will let myself rewrite the last two or three lines from the day before. But that’s all. I don’t scroll up and reread. I keep moving forward.
If you simply cannot silence your inner critic, step back from your writing. Take the time to ground yourself in something concrete. Take a walk and listen to the wind in the trees. Do something tactile like knitting. I like to bake bread because it means working with the dough. Do something sensory.
I’m not 100% certain why we call this nasty little voice our inner editor. My editors have been wonderfully helpful. But no matter what you call it, you don’t need to let negative thought spirals ruin your writing day. It may take some time but you can learn to minimize that voice and listen to the words of your story instead.