We all have an inner editor – that little voice that criticises everything we write when we’re trying to put words down on the page. Telling us that’s not a good enough word or this whole chapter is garbage or I’m not writing this character well enough. Maybe your inner editor reminds you of all the rejections you’ve received, or bad reviews, and tells you to give up. An inner editor can be really useful when revising, redrafting and editing a manuscript because we need critical thinking. But when you’re just trying to put words down and get to the finish line, it can get in the way.
Here’s some advice on silencing that little voice, so you can get to the end of your manuscript as painlessly as possible.
Listen to music
If you’re able to write to music, listening to it while writing can replace the inner editor’s nagging little voice. It’s something else to occupy your senses as you write. It can also help set the mood and make you feel more confident. If your inner editor is getting you down, put on some epic music and tell it to shut up!
If music is too distracting but other sounds aren’t, you could try white noise, coffee shop sounds, sites like RainyMood or other weather sounds.
If you haven’t heard of writing sprints before, they’re essentially timed writing sessions – usually short bursts, such as twenty to thirty minutes, but they can be longer. You can do them on your own, or with writer friends or critique partners to help keep you accountable and motivated.
Writing springs can help you shut off your inner editor because the aim is to write as much as you can in the given time. Sprints don’t give you room to overthink or question what you’re writing – the goal is just to make progress and worry about revising and editing later.
Take your inner editor for a walk
If your inner editor really is too chatty and it’s getting you down, take it for a walk. I personally swear by walks for untangling plot problems but they’re equally useful for getting out of your own head and putting some distance between you and your worries.
Distraction-free writing tools
Sometimes social media can fuel our inner editor. We get caught up in checking Twitter, and see all the cool things other writers are doing – and then we wonder whether we’re good enough. Cue opening up our Word document and questioning everything we’ve ever written. The perfect environment for the inner editor to come out to play.
Microsoft Word also has a Focus mode to get rid of all the toolbars and distractions. You can find it in the View tab:
Once you turn Focus mode on, it’s just you and the blank page:
If social media plays a part in your writing anxieties, distraction-free tools like Focus mode can be really helpful. Ommwriter is another tool designed for distraction-free writing and it’s a bit more aesthetically pleasing than Word!
Switch up your writing method
Sometimes writing by hand can free up our minds and make us less worried about our words. On a computer, it’s easy to hit backspace, or highlight huge chunks of text and remove them. By hand, it’s less easy to delete what you’ve written unless you start furiously scribbling or tearing out pages.
There’s something less pressure-filled about a notebook and a pen. If your inner editor is bothering you, give it a try.
Some writers also like dictating – I can’t say I’ve tried it, but talking into a microphone makes it pretty hard to go back and self-edit or critique your own words!
Take a break
If all else fails, and your inner editor really won’t leave you alone, take a break. Your writing will still be there tomorrow, or next week. We all need time to refresh ourselves and if you’re feeling particularly self-critical, now may be the time to focus on yourself. Use the time to get inspired – read great books, watch movies, refill the creative well.
A lot of writing advice would have you believe you have to be constantly writing, every day, but we all need rest.
Take that break if you need it – your inner editor might be less talkative when you come back!
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