Friday, September 23, 2011

5 Ways to Kick the Self-Editing Urge

A golden pen underlines the word NOW! on a sheet of lined paper.
Hey, you!

Yes, you.

You're a writer, right? But you never finish anything. You know you need to turn off that self-editor, but ze keeps whining at you to tweak this, prop up that, write it all off as hack writing by a bad writer. You know the answer is to write give yourself permission to write badly, but you can't or you know if you did, something would inevitably go very, very wrong with your work.

Well, if you can't finish what you started, something has already gone very, very wrong. So here are five concrete ways to kick that self-editing urge to the curb.

1) Keep sacred your writing time. Exercise your 'Just do it!' muscles on writing you don't care about at blocks of time you don't care about. At worst, you'll get experience. At most bizarre, you'll get a masterpiece. Turning waiting in the coffee line time into learning while waiting in the coffee line.

2) Get away from writing. It's easy to self-edit when all the bad or not-quite right words are sprawled in front of you. Step away from writing and compose instead: break out the voice recorder! (Most computers these days come with free software that's good enough for this exercise.) You can self edit on this, but not very much. And it's amazing what you'll say to fill the silence.

3) Be a retro-nerd! Four compound words for you: text-based free-style real-time role-playing. That's a mouthful, but all it means is: you and a writing buddy sit down at your computers, open up chats window, assign yourselves characters and tell a story that way. I recommend the gmail chat client since it time stamps the conversation after about 2 and a 1/2 minutes of silence. Use that to spurn you on. (Warning: style gets wonky with this kind of thing, since you only have control over one character.  So does the plot, since you never know what the other person will say next. But the ability to write without editing will stick.)

4) Count however you want. There are, of course, timed writing challenges. Now, if you're like me, that timer's got you rocking back and forth and biting your nails, not putting words to the page. If that's the case, get a stop watch instead: count up! See how long you can continuously add new words without deleting. Go for a new record every time, until you can do hours with ease.

5) Delete the delete. All else has failed.  You. Cannot. Stop. Editing!  All right, calm down, and literally disable your delete key. This is obviously an extreme measure but you? You're a writer.  Don't let the editor in your head overwhelm you.

I'm off to take my own advice, but first let me ask yours: do you have any methods to suggest? Any here you think you'll try?


  1. He he. You should read the load of c*** I wrote today for a guest post. It wasn't completely my fault. I was working on it while my son was in his ballroom dance class. Unfortunately there was a LOUD belly dancing workshop (with 50+ women) in the area where I have to wait for my son. My internal editor was hiding from the noise. Normal it likes to do it's thing while I work. ;)

  2. @Stina Lindenblatt To add to the list: sit next to a room with dozens of three-fourths-naked women. Got it.


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