A writer friend was recently recounting to me how much she struggled with her inner editor-- how the voice was mean and surly, less a whisper and more a hiss. She talked about how it was all she could do to keep writing.
I thought about this for awhile and then realized I had the opposite situation. My inner editor is kind, gentle, affirming. She jumps around like a cheerleader with Energizer batteries, saying things like "That's brilliant!" "You're doing so well!" "Keep it up!" She comes complete with perky ponytail and uberbright smile.
But in the end I am not sure she's all that helpful either. Sure I get work done, but I can tell you I don't struggle to find the right words, labor over the little nuances of the characters, push myself to nail down that perfect metaphor. Instead everything is good enough. I write words. I move on. It's only later-- when people other than myself and my inner editor read it, that I discover there's work to be done. And after the buildup from my inner editor, I can tell you it's a bit of a shock to hear that every word I wrote was not stellar.
My inner editor, after all, assured me it was.
The more I've thought about the conversation with my friend, the more I've wondered if it's possible to have a balanced innner editor any more than it's possible to have a balanced life. Do I want a writing life that is mired in defeat and self-loathing from the outset, fueled by a snippy voice I can never quiet for long? Or do I want a chirpy cheerleader pushing me in directions that are actually deadends?
Of course, neither option is good.
If you have an overly optimistic inner editor like I do, you can quiet her or him by forcing yourself to submit to the opinions of people who will tell you the truth as soon as possible. You can learn to filter his or her comments through reality-- pinpointing the things you do well and owning up to the things you struggle with. You can also study the process of self-editing and invest in books that teach you how to do it.
If you have a picky perfectionist inner editor like my friend, then you have the challenge of tuning her out and writing anyway, telling her she'll have her chance later... once you've gotten the story down. Tell her you'll save a place for her at the table right beside you when the time comes. Then charge ahead while she sulks. If all else fails, you can just crank your music louder than she can talk. I can tell you from experience, sometimes that's the only thing that works.
What about you? Do you have a kind inner editor or a mean one? How have you learned to work with or around him or her?
This will be my last Fiction Friday post for a month. I will be back in August!