If you read a decent number of creative writing blogs, or know any authors, you’ve probably heard about the dreaded “Inner Editor.” I’ve decided to call mine Eeyore, cause he’s pretty much a downer. (Jennings Wright’s is a balrog. This is a FABULOUS blog post on the same topic with a different twist.)
The Inner Editor is your “bad” writing angel. It’s the guy or gal (or donkey) sitting on your shoulder telling you you shouldn’t be writing, you’re wasting your time, and you’re no good at it. The big problem with Eeyore is that he knows me really well, so he’s really good at picking up on the things I don’t like about myself and using them to distract me from making progress.
You might think that after some time, your Eeyore will go away. Bad news: he doesn’t. I’ve been writing for ten years and I’ve never gotten rid of him.
However, there is some good news too! Whether you’re writing a first draft, or editing, or even just plotting, your Eeyore will use the same basic strategies to attack you. And when you can understand the attack and where it comes from, it’s a lot easier to brush it off and even laugh it off. It also helps just to realize all writers have that dang thing hovering around spouting venom!Here’s how I’ve learned to distinguish Eeyore tries to bring me down to his level.
- PERFECTIONISM. Attacks rooted in my desire to be perfect. Eeyore’s always pointing out that I’m not perfect. Well, I’m not going to be perfect, ever. And frankly, it’s not a bad thing I’m aware it’s not gonna happen, because if I thought I could write something perfect, I’d be a pretty smug, nasty piece of work, wouldn’t I? Rather than shooting for perfection, I try shooting for improvement.
- INSECURITY (POPULARITY). Attacks rooted in a desire for people to like what I’m writing and a fear of being laughed at or mocked. Eeyore tells me, “That’s the most ridiculous thing they’ll ever read.” “You’re not actually considering letting people see that, are you?” Well, everyone is different. Not everyone is going to like what I write, and I’m accepting that to a greater and greater degree, because I need to accept it. Truly, it’s okay if some people don’t like my novels. Everyone has different tastes and different pet peeves. It helps when I can look at my handful of bad reviews and realize that I have many more good reviews disagreeing with those assessments. Even when there’s a nugget of truth in a bad review I can take and learn from and use to improve my writing… well, that’s something to celebrate in its way. Because again, we’re shooting for improvement as well go along. (Also, since I’m kind of a Beatles nut, I like to remind myself that Decca records rejected the Beatles.)
- SENSE OF BEING OVERWHELMED. Eeyore really likes to describe the huge honking panorama of a project I’m working on and highlight all the problems it has, all the things I haven’t figured out yet, and all the plot holes that are so laughable they’re embarrassing. Well, I just have to tell him to shut his yapper. I can only handle one thing at a time. And I only need to handle one thing at a time, so that works out just fine.
- INFERIORITY COMPLEX. Eeyore just loves to compare my work with all the great masterpieces I’ve read, and all the success I see some other authors having, and tell me that I can’t write and why don’t I just give it up already? When Eeyore does this, I remind myself of something J.K. Rowling said to aspiring writers: write write write, and throw it all away, and keep writing until finally you write something that isn’t worthy of the rubbish bin. You have to learn how to write. It’s a process. It’s a skill to be developed. It’s much more like running than, say, breathing. A baby crawls, then teeters, then walks, before it can run. And if a baby got mad that it wasn’t running when it’s just starting to crawl, well, that wouldn’t make much sense. He should be excited that he’s one step closer to running, not upset that he’s not there yet!