Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Attack of the Inner Editor

I have a very strong inner editor.  In arm wrestles, she always wins.  What does this mean for my writing?  Sometimes it takes hours for me to write a chapter.

I envy those who can sit at their computer and just write.  Even when they know it's not perfect and it will ultimately need some serious revision.  

I can't do that.  I've tried, trust me.  But I can't stop myself from going back to reread and rewrite.  In fact, before each writing session, I review the previous chapter and rewrite words, sentences, even entire paragraphs.  I suffer from a bad case of perfectionism.

In her book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott spends one chapter championing bad first drafts and another chapter denouncing perfectionism.  She states, "Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.  It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft" (28).  She continues, "Perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force ... Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up.  But clutter and mess show that life is being lived" (28).

Do you agree with Anne Lamott?  What do you do to restrain your own inner editor?

15 comments:

Sandy Shin said...

I completely agree with Anne Lamott. That said, however, it's hard quieting the inner editor. I have a lot of troubles doing it and can't stop myself from going back and rewrite, also.

Liz H. Allen said...

In my head I continually chat "Just keep going, just keep going..." I never go back and reread a first draft unless I don't remember a detail or need to switch something up for the story part I am currently writing to make sense. It's very hard for me but I just push myself to not look back until it's complete. I also insert page breaks at the end of each chapter so that I'm starting new.

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

Ignoring my inner editor is the most challenging aspect of writing a novel, for me. When I figure out how to do it, I'll let you know :D

miss ali said...

i'm a lot like you- i cant help but go over chapters while still writing, but i am getting at NOT doing that kind of editing and revising until i have spewed everything I possibly can from that sitting. I try not to touch what i have just written until at least the next day. I think Anne lamott is right, and we just have to let ourselves suck a little.

Alexandra Crocodile said...

I don't! I fear I am one of those you envy:)

thewritegroove said...

I think teacher/writers have been cursed with an overdose of inner-editors because that's what we do as part of our day jobs. We have a hard time NOT editing anyone and everyone - from billboards to text messaging. Closed captioning drives us CRA.ZY.

Perhaps we can chip in and hire an exorcist! Who's willing?

Christine Fonseca said...

I totally blogged on this too. I struggle with the first 5K or so. Once I feel comfortable in the voice - I can write with free abandon...to a point

Jennifer Shirk said...

Yes! I totally agree! But I haven't found a way to completely block the internal editor like i should. She's tough.

Catherine A. Winn said...

I do agree with her, but I'm another one who finds it hard to turn off her inner editor and get moving. I'm working on something new, into the fifth chapter, and I've gone back several times to change things in the previous ones. AAAACCCKKK! I couldn't do that in NaNoWriMo and I think that's why the whole 50,000 word draft had to be trashed! But I experienced what it is like to plow through and write. Fun but...

Meghan Ward said...

I do agree with Anne Lamott. I think giving yourself short deadlines and making it a goal to write a mediocre chapter is the best way to get the words on the page. That said, several hours to write one chapter is NOT slow! I can fiddle with one paragraph for an hour. Okay, maybe I need to take some of that Anne Lamott advice myself!

Vicki Rocho said...

I agree, but that doesn't mean I don't struggle with the inner editor and perfectionism. I try NOT to read anything I previously wrote when I sit down to write. Too easy to get sucked into edit mode.

Mary Aalgaard said...

I agree with Lamott. And, I have to really force the inner editor out the door. I have this book but haven't read it, yet. I will, soon.

kendrajkphotography said...

I love Bird by Bird, one of the best writing books I've ever read. I agree with almost everything she has to say.

I also do the same thing you do! Before I can go on in my writing for the day, I always have to reread and make edits. Though it doesn't often hold me back too much, I can manage to just write and as I'm writing I tell myself it's awful but I just need to get the ideas out. That's the best way for me to silence the inner editor. Recognize that it's going to suck and going to be a bad first draft but I just need to get the idea out or it will just sit in my head forever.
:)

SAMUEL PARK said...

I like your post--and yes, Anne Lamott is truly great! Hope her advice's working!

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