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Killing Your Inner Editor

Everybody wants to know the secret to being a writer, right? I must have asked it a thousand times, and I've been asked it just as many. How do I finish my book? How do I not give up? How do I stick with this writing thing and not jump ship when it gets hard?

There are about a hundred different answers, of course, but I'm going to share the one that changed my writing completely: kill your inner editor.

Well...temporarily. No perma-deaths here. Prep a resurrection spell, or just employ your favorite sound-proof hostage room. Whatever your preference.

Every writer has an inner editor, that little voice in the back of your head that bugs you every time a sentence seems awkwardly worded or you think there might be a plot hole. And as useful as they can be, they can also be the biggest obstacle in your way.

Nobody likes to think that their writing has problems. Nobody likes those annoying little red lines. We all want to fix them, and there's nothing wrong with that. And you might as well fix them now, right? But really think about it--how easy is it to focus on what comes next when you know there's something wrong with what you just wrote?

Every time that inner editor starts talking, you have a choice to make: listen to it, or tell it to save it for later and keep going. My advice to you, whoever you are, however long you've been writing, whatever you write, is to choose the latter every time. Make that voice shut up and leave you alone until you're done writing. It's not easy--trust me, I know how difficult it is--and it takes practice. It takes time to train yourself to resist the temptation of rewriting. But as long as you're worried about what's wrong with your story or your writing, you're never going to be able to go forward. The inner editor is fantastic for quality control, yeah, but it'll kill your enthusiasm and creativity before you know it.

I'm going to drop a nasty truth here: everybody's first draft sucks. Everybody's. A perfect first draft does not exist, so if that idea is still floating around in your head, knock it out right now.

That doesn't mean there's not hope. That doesn't mean you're a terrible writer. It means there's no place for the inner editor during your first draft. Afterwards, sure, let it run wild. It'll help you out. But as long as you're still writing that story, the editor needs to go away. The first draft is for you and for your characters. It's about the emotion, the action, the story, the creativity. It's about spilling your ideas onto paper and making something out of nothing. So what comes out won't be perfect, who cares? It's there, and that's the important thing.

One of the greatest pieces of writing advice I ever received went something along the lines of this: The first draft is about the journey. The second is about the technique.

Enjoy the journey. When you get back to reality you can worry about what came from it.

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