This is one of my most popular posts, so while I'm transferring posts from the Wordpress site over here, I thought I'd lead off with it. If you're participating in a Camp NaNo event (or the "big NaNo" in November) you, especially, need to read this!
I just put “inner editor” into my Bing search bar. This is what I got: 43,600,000 results. Google, not to be outdone, has “about” 84,800,000 results. I find that astonishing! Of course, go to the NaNoWriMo website and forums and you’ll see lots about that most wicked of unwanted visitors. But people are still looking — obviously.
So what to do?
The inner editor is a demon of epic proportions that’s got to be at least as scary as a balrog.
Like a balrog (my own balrog experience being limited to The Lord of the Rings), it’s the bane of writers everywhere. In fact, it’s so scary that many would-be writers never venture forth into writer-land, afraid that the flaming whip is going to come out of the dark recesses of their mind and snatch them right off their feet. Many who start writing aren’t able to stand up to the balrog like Gandalf, uttering my favorite line of the whole book/movie: YOU. SHALL NOT. PASS. Many, if not most, don’t think they have that power.
Let me assure you, friends, that you do. You, too, can stand on that rickety writing bridge, turn to face the demonic inner editor, and throw down the gauntlet. You, too, can look that flaming freakazoid in the fiery eyeballs and refuse to back down. You, too, can claim your territory, can draw a line in the sand, can put a stop to the tyranny by saying “I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS!”
Who is this inner editor anyway? Well, like the balrog, he or she lives down in the dark recesses of your mind. Usually, it’s content with scathing remarks when you’re standing in front of the mirror or when you say something you’re not sure if you regret. But get out the pen and paper, or computer, or paintbrush and paint, and its true nature comes swelling into life. It says:
How dare you think you have anything to say to the world?
How dare you presume to write 50,000 or 100,000 words on paper and expect anyone to read it?
Who told you that you could write?
Who told you that you could do anything at all unique, interesting or good?
Who do you think you are?
If you forge ahead anyway, the inner editor goes from vastly exaggerated statements of your measly self-worth to minutia in an instant.
Your grammar sucks.
That sentence sucks.
Why would you choose that word?
This is crap.
Those people are one dimensional, unbelievable, and stupid.
You are one dimensional, unbelievable and stupid!
This whole thing is stupid. Let’s just order pizza and watch a movie.
And if you don’t turn, at some point in this whole process, and say it — say “You shall not pass!” right then and there — you will quit. You will close your laptop or cap your pen, wander off to the tv, and quit. And the balrog… uh, inner editor… will smirk and smile and leave you alone for awhile, so you have peace and forget about that stupid writing thing.
Well. Are you going to give up that easily? I’ve given you tips before for outsmarting the inner editor, and you can read those here. But I was struck by the fact that, really, the inner editor can only be stopped by taking a stand. Sure, you can trick it. You can use my tips and get your 50,000 words for NaNo, and that would be a great accomplishment. But what happens if, like 10-20% of us doing NaNo (totally made up that estimate, to be honest) you really want to try to do something with the book? That will require finishing it, and editing it, and the inner editor will get louder and louder. And you have to shut it up, or your novel will be one of millions in drawers, old hard drives and dusty boxes the world over.
It IS necessary to be honest with ourselves about our writing. It IS necessary to get beta readers who will be honest with us about our writing. It IS necessary to edit and edit and edit, and try to make it the very best it can be. But if you don’t believe in yourself and your writing, if you won’t take a stand for it against the inner editor/balrog, you will be stuck in the two blue squares above. Humility is one thing. False humility is another. Your balrog isn’t a pet… It’s an enemy. One only you can fight. Will you stand up for yourself and your vision and take a stand?
(We’re now required to put in this disclaimer for anything containing ‘NaNoWriMo’ or ‘National Novel Writing Month': “This is not an official NaNoWriMo site, and the content has not been reviewed by National Novel Writing Month. For more information on National Novel Writing Month, visit http://www.nanowrimo.org.”)