Writer Beware: How the Inner Editor Attacks

Yeah.... DON'T let the cute factor fool ya....

Yeah…. DON’T let the cute factor fool ya….

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!
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44 responses to “Writer Beware: How the Inner Editor Attacks

  1. Great article – thanks, Victoria. I needed to read this right now! πŸ™‚

  2. angel7090695001

    Great post. Most writers get the same insecurities.

    • I think we definitely do. And I know it helps me to realize I’m not the only one who deals with them. It helps a lot! πŸ™‚

      • angel7090695001

        Do you accept guest posts on your site? We could do a guest post on each others site.

        • I do!!! though I haven’t gotten many yet. πŸ™‚ any Friday you would like can be yours. can you email me about it at greferauthor.yahoo.com?

        • I do!!! though I haven’t gotten many yet. πŸ™‚ any Friday you would like can be yours. can you email me about it at greferauthor@yahoo.com?

        • angel7090695001

          Yeah will do. I have been considering doing a Rafflecopter giveaway for the chance to name a character in one of my stories as I tend to call them the same sort of names especially in my early ones and I don’t know what to call them. On the plus side it will give me more promotion for my books.

        • I’ve done one rafflecopter giveaway. If you can find a way to get people to enter it’s totally worth it! I had trouble there 😦

        • angel7090695001

          Yeah as always promotion is hard. I will probably use my awesome social media tool Buffer (the free version which lets my use twitter, Facebook profile and LinkedIn. Unfortunately the free version only lets you use 1 Facebook account so no pages) and buffer it like crazy.

        • angel7090695001

          Once my buffer goes down I will really buffer it a lot which will go to all my social networks. What do you think of it? https://www.facebook.com/pages/Louise-Findlay-Books/430927340306453?&sk=app_228910107186452

          I had to put it on my Facebook page as the HTML doesn’t work on the free version of wordpress grrr😑😑😑😑.

          I gave it until the end of the month so I have plenty of time to promote it and hopefully get some entries. You can enter if you want.

        • ooh I like it. Simple and requiring that like will really make the giveaway effective for gaining exposure!

        • angel7090695001

          Hopefully it will work
          *fingers crossed tightly

        • angel7090695001

          What do you use to cut down on twitter followers. I have tried a lot of tools but not found away that I like.

        • I use justunfollow.com. It’s free and lets you cut down by 25 or 50 a day for free. (Somehow I got bumped up to 50 a day)

  3. My inner editor sounds suspiciously like my mother. I might have issues! The more I write, the more I am able to counter that inner voice. I’ve gotten to the point where I say to myself “Yeah, this might be garbage, but I have to get it out, before I get to the good stuff, so I need to keep writing.”

    • Oh Michelle, I could imagine mine sounding like certain relatives too!!! I try not to. I think you make a great point that experience writing is a great way to combat the inner editor. It builds the necessary confidence. We’ve all just got to find to keep going until we reach that point. Thanks for the insight!

  4. I’ve got Eeyores too… He particularly likes “overwhelm” and “insecurity.” I like to mock him. I think I’ll start making an Eeyore saddle and force him to pose for my blog so everyone can see what a… donkey he is. Great post!

  5. Good, funny post, and what I needed to read, tonight. I recently sold a manuscript to DC Thomson, for their My Weekly Pocket Novel range, and now I am writing a second one for them. But, guess what, my version of Eeyore has been busy telling me that this one is so much worse than the last one, why am I even bothering, I should have just called it quits after I sold the first and gone out on a high…
    Yeah, right.
    Thanks for bringing me back down to earth and putting my doubts into perspective.

  6. With you on the inferiority thing. Sometimes I read and wonder how I could ever dream of competing. However, sometimes I come across books that have been published the old-fashioned way by well-known companies and I read them and think ‘huh! that’s NO better than mine!’

    • I agree!!! oh my gosh, I’ve had that experience too. walking into a brick and mortar store and picking up a random book and thinking, “I write better than this. If nothing else, I write just as well.”

  7. I hope you’re not ignoring Eeyore completely. If he’s pointing out flaws in prose or characterization, etc maybe he has a point. The trick is shutting out the ‘you suck because you’re a loser’ parts and focusing on the ‘that paragraph sucks because it drags down the scene’ parts.

    • most definitely, Brian!!! that’s a wonderful distinction!!! it’s the difference between “this sucks and you should just give up and you suck too” and “this sucks in this particular way, so I just need to cut it or make it NOT suck.”

  8. Another great post. I can’t help it the photo is too cute!

  9. Cate Russell-Cole

    Reblogged this on "CommuniCATE" Resources for Writers and commented:
    Too good not to share! Be encouraged. Thank you for a great post Victoria.

  10. Reblogged this on Hunter's Writing and commented:
    And here’s another writer on the inner critic

  11. Love this ~ and Eeyore! I call my vicious inner editor “The Queen of Hearts.” Her favourite catch phrase is: “cut! cut! cut!” (Okay, it doesn’t have the same ring as ‘off with her head’ but the bloodshed is the same, LOL). Isn’t it amazing how we have to be two people in one, at least? Writer, editor and possibly also reader and book lover? Great article, thanks!

    • ooh I LOVE the queen of hearts reference! it’s definitely bloodshed to cut passages–or it feels like it. I think all writers have all kinds of different people in their heads: each character I write is a part of me, or has aspects of my personality.

  12. Have you been talking to my inner muse lately? Because I could totally have written this. I am painfully ever confronted by the inner editor and sometimes it really injures the process. Like, write now I am supposed to be working on a short story but it just can’t seem to get “good enough”

    • Oh man, Lisa, believe me, I have been there!!! Sometimes it helps to take a break for a bit and come back to it with fresh eyes and a fresh mindset. Also, sometimes it helps to have another pair eyes read your WIP and give you feedback, if you’re struggling about how to get it where you want it. Other readers might have suggestions about how to get there. Just some thoughts that came to me right away reading your comment. I’m really glad you stopped by. And don’t let Eeyore get you down!!!

  13. For the most part my inner editor is quite helpful, we work well together and end up with some great stuff. But then there is the mean-spirited-evil-editor I think that’s the one you’re talking about.

    • oh yeah, I’m talking about the nasty one πŸ™‚ but there’s definitely a good angel for every bad one, and that’s important to note!!! Thanks, Peter. Sometimes a kinder inner editor can help us fix what needs fixing without pulling us down.

  14. Reblogged this on Time to Write and commented:
    My inner critic (editor) is named homer. Yep homer with a lower case “h”. I do my best to show him disrespect. Great post about your Inner Editor.

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  20. I can always count on finding just what I need to read on your blog when my Inner Editor is really beating me down. On the last stretch of NaNo, I am realizing all of the plot holes and things that I wanted to incorporate into my novel that just did not happen. But when I read your post about embracing mistakes, it opened my eyes to the couple of scenes I wrote that I would have never thought of if it was not for those couple wandering ones of which my Inner Editor would not butt out. I still have 7,670 more words to go by tomorrow night, and while my Inner Ed was just telling me that I ruined my story by rushing through, I had to realize that I would probably would have never produced anything if I hadn’t done so. I need to put my foot down and not let Ed make any more comments until after my first draft.

    Also, Ed is giving me a lot of guilt right now because I just killed a horse. And I feel awful. It is one of the top things I despise in stories. I almost couldn’t write it and I wanted to cry. I’ve sacrificed characters before, but I cannot stand it when the innocent, loyal, trusting, animal dies while serving its master. But there was just nothing I could do to save him. πŸ˜₯

    • OOH, you shouldn’t read my books then!!! I have had to kill a couple of animals too. It’s so sad!!!!!!! It really does tear you up!

      I’m so glad this post was timely for you! Best of luck with your draft and finishing out NaNoWriMo! You are so right: having something on the page is worth not having anything because you are overthinking πŸ™‚ For sure!

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