Ah, there it is again: the ever-present, ever-critical inner editor. You know the feeling: You can be writing merrily along on a creative roll, when suddenly, you’re pulled up short. Your inner editor is at it again, tapping on your shoulder, whispering in your ear, grabbing your pen or freezing your fingers on the keys.
What’s that pesky little know-it-all saying? It’s never anything good. It’s always kvetching and nitpicking and harping about something you’ve managed to get down on paper: THAT’S NOT CLEVER, IT’S CLICHÉD. THAT’S NOT FUNNY, IT’S LAME. THAT’S NOT LYRICAL, IT’S LIMP. You know the drill.
Now whether it’s an old negative tape running in your head or some old parental warning about what you were or weren’t capable of doing as a kid, there’s one thing we all know about our inner editor: Yours, mine, Shakespeare’s, Stephen King’s, and J.K. Rowling’s: IT’S NOT HELPING US, IT’S HOLDING US BACK!
What to do, what to do? Just recently, I came across a sprightly Writer’s Digest online article called “How to Shut Up Your Inner Editor” by Noelle Sterne, editor, writing coach, and author of Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams. In the article, Noelle describes a defining moment when she did battle with her inner editor and vanquished it by typing “one word that calmed, commanded, and cut through the hailstorm of criticism” like Excalibur, King Arthur’s legendary sword. What was the magic word? It had three letters: FIX.
Here are a few things Noelle said that word does for her: It reminds her that what she’s written isn’t cast in stone; that she’s writing a draft, which is a work in progress; that she can go back whenever she wants to and rework what isn’t working; that she’s free to take a flyer and give less than her best from time to time; and most of all, it “gently confirms that the writing process is one of trial and error, coaxing and courting, boldness, patience, and courage.” I love that!
A few final words of wisdom from Noelle about the fixative powers of jotting FIX down next to something you inner editor has flagged: “So, the next time you hear your own version of the frightful condemning inner editor’s voice, just greet it with a FIX. This little word enables you not only to keep going, meeting your word or minute count for the day. It also, astoundingly, sets your creativity free. And you’ll be thrilled to discover greater confidence in your mind, your abilities, and your work. Accept the process. You’ll see that you can FIX anything.”
Bravo, Noelle. Let’s NIX those inner editors, FIX those drafts of ours — and write on!