You’d think NaNo’s built-in time pressure would be a good enough reason for my internal editor to become silent, but the rule-following librarian that lives in my head seems to be able to keep on talking, no matter what. The last time I did NaNo (in 2008), it took me three hours to get my daily word count done on November 1st.
While I did get faster over the month, I don’t have that kind of time these days. Last time I did NaNo, I had no children at home. Now I have a toddler to chase after and when he goes to bed, I’m ready to go, too. And those precious early morning hours I used to take for granted are now filled with cars, trucks, pancakes, and battles over teeth-brushing and socks.
So I’ve figured out another way to quiet my nemesis: I’ve been dialoguing with her.
Here’s how you can do it, too.
- Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the center.
- The left-hand column is for your writer self. The right-hand column is for your internal editor.
- Write “I want to write without editing” in the left-hand column. In the right-hand column, write “You need to edit as you go.”
- Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and then write your (writer’s self) response to your internal editor’s first statement. Once you’ve done that, see what your internal editor’s response is. Keep going until you get to a turning point.
- If you feel stalled, re-write the original two sentences and start over. Or just keep responding “You can’t make me edit as I go” in the left-hand column. Eventually, the response will change.
- Keep writing until the dialogue feels complete.
- Repeat daily or as often as feels helpful.
The first time I did this exercise, last week, I did a lot of repetition of “You can’t make me.” It was all very juvenile. But then something shifted. I got to a place where the response to “You can’t make me,” was a list of conditions:
- Don’t show the first draft to anyone.
- Don’t throw anything out.
- Don’t get hurt.
Don’t get hurt? Where did that come from?
It turns out my internal editor, like my inner critic, is all about safety. Unfortunately, she doesn’t understand that safety is not worth my soul—but I do. Once I got to this point in the dialogue, everything changed.
My writer self was able to reassure my internal editor.
The next time I did this exercise, I got to the heart of the dialogue much faster. By November 1st, my internal editor and I should be in sync—at least until December 1st.
How do you deal with your internal editor?
Diane MacKinnon, MD, is currently a full-time mother, part-time life coach. She is a Master Certified Life Coach, trained by Martha Beck, among others. She is passionate about her son, her writing, and using her mind to create a wonderful present moment. Find her life coaching blog at www.dianemackinnon.com/blog.