Hey writer—I have a lovely friend I keep writerly accountability with and co-write with often. Her son was home from school, and that was the day I got some real gems for writing fodder. I think you’re going to love them.
One snapshot of conversation went a little like this:
“Mom, I don’t think you should change anything about your writing. Write the way you want to write. Sometimes you have to say ‘No’ to the editor.”
“You may be right. Sometimes you just have to say ‘No’ to the editor.”
We laughed, and then I thought about what he said. I’ve decided I agree.
And every writer gasped.
I’m curious what your response was when you read that. Did you mentally run down the road to form an argument? Did you feel a particular emotion? Your writing goals likely colored your perspective, and that makes sense.
What if I told you the best writers say “No!” more often than you think? One particular editor should hear that word often.
The Inner Editor
More often than not a voice offers running critical dialogue in the writer’s mind. It may be echoes of a high school English teacher correcting grammar and word usage, or it may sound like a family member saying, “Nothin’ new under the sun—the story’s been told a hundred different ways. Why tell it again?” I think the writer “ninja” with sharp editing skills hears her own voice.
Speak to the Voice
When you hear critical voices surrounding your writing—especially in the first draft—you have options. I think my favorite is “Shut. Up.” Dig deep and craft a strong response that fits your personality. You choose. Try this: “I’m getting words down, no matter what you say, Editor!” or “Bug off!” One of my favorites is “Ain’t nobody got time for this!” You could always borrow a Shakespearean insult: “I scorn you, scurvy companion.” ¹ And “More of your conversation would infect my brain.” ² Or “You are as a candle, the better burnt out.” ³
Whatever you do, speak to the voice before it stifles your creativity and productivity. Speak kindly and firmly in response, especially when the voice sounds like your own. But stand on your own two, writer. The inner editor needs to be silenced.
There’s Work to Do
Writer, words need to be written. In your early drafts they are not polished and perfect. Can you accept that? If you can’t allow the words to fall to the page as they may, you’ll stand in a drafting jungle, paralyzed. If you can, you’ll find your creativity and productivity increasing. Then slowly and carefully, you’ll develop self-editing skills over time in later drafts—your own red pen “machete”—to clear the way for a final draft.
Tell the editor “No!” Can you do it? Writer, which words will you choose for the dialogue between the two of you? I kind of hope someone chooses an insult.
Share the words you’ll use in the comments below.
¹ William Shakespeare. Henry IV, Part II (Act 2, Scene 4).
² William Shakespeare. The Comedy of Errors (Act 2, Scene 1).
³ William Shakespeare. Henry IV Part II (Act 1, Scene 2).