Have you ever had a nasty gremlin sitting on your shoulder telling you that you can't do it when you write? He's that little guy who wheezes in your ear, sharing not-so-sweet nothings like, "That's an adverb, followed by too many adjectives." Or "That makes no sense. Do you even know who this character is? You must SHOW their motivation." Or "That paragraph is too long." Or "A comma doesn't go there." Or "Spelled that wrong!" Or "Get a thesaurus, you've used that word three times."
Yeah, that internal editor can be a nasty little you-know-what when you are trying to get down a first draft. But he can also be worth his weight during edits.
So, what do you do when he keeps butting in while you are writing your first draft? What can you do? And you have to do something otherwise that nasty little gremlin will smother your muse in vile tar in five seconds flat, leaving you sobbing on your keyboard.
5 Ways to Silence Your Internal Editor
(Until You Need Him/Her)
Just keep writing. You have to show that gremlin who's boss--and that would be you, the writer. So keep writing. Eventually he'll get tired and drift off.
Learn to be okay with the fact that some of what you write is going to be garbage. If you keep writing, eventually you run out of garbage--plus oddly enough, over time it becomes less smelly. (Nice!) You can always edit it later, recycling some items, landfilling others, polishing hidden gems, etc., but if you don't have it down... what have you got to edit and polish? Nothin', darlin'.
If it is a long list of writing rules that keeps you from doing well when putting down a draft, turn off your grammar and spell checker and write. You will have plenty of time to worry about commas and grammar later. Right now you need to get in the zone, stay there, and write. Plus, the more you write, write, write, the sooner all those rules will become second nature.
If you decide to focus on learning the rules while you write, consider focusing on one thing at a time--we don't want any exploded heads... brains are very difficult to clean off the upholstery.
Some writers find that if their gremlin doesn't have a day job, is a bit of an insomniac, and is always on snoopervision no matter what they do, they distract him. Try music. Talk radio so he doesn't get lonely. Or the TV so he picks up useful tidbits he can feed into your subconscious to be placed here and there in your story.
Let your Gremlin play. He's playful. He's bored. He's not going anywhere, so use him. Channel his energy into your internal Ways-I-Can-Improve drive. Challenge yourself in healthy ways. But remember, when he gets to be too much tell him to shut it. And be firm. Spank him if necessary. (I won't call social services, I promise.)
Send your internal editor gremlin out to do research. If he keeps harping on you about sensory information, let him loose on someone else's work. Let him soak up knowledge and apply it to your work--in edits. (Try and keep that nasty little guy out of your first draft.)
Good luck young grasshoppers. And whatever you do, keep your gremlin dry.
Now that you've looked at your internal editor/gremlin from the write angle, do you have any handy gremlin elimination tips? Share them in the comments section.
Jean Oram once kept her gremlin up late and let it have a bath. Things turned rather nasty. Her short story, which is about love and not about gremlins, will be published in The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse where she also served as a gremlin on the contributing author's shoulders (i.e. editor). You can find more writing tips from Jean on her blog. (Today's post is: 7 Words that Weaken Your Writing--don't miss it!).