There’s not a writer alive who doesn’t know what an Internal Editor is. He’s the guy in your head who sits back, half-loaded with gin, and snarks, “You’re not writing THAT are you?” and, “Wow…this character is your worst one yet!”
In other words, the guy is a total jerk-turd.
Left unchecked, an Internal Editor sends writers running for the delete key, and worse, into the “I’m not good enough/what was I thinking/time to lick stamps for a living” zone.
I hate it when people give in to the “you aren’t good enough” voice because a) great stories belong on the page, and b) the writer ends up licking stamps for the rest of his or her life. (And ever since I read a story about a woman who licked a stamp with cockroach eggs in the glue and a cut on her tongue turned it into a roach baby incubator (*screaming*), the whole licking-stamps-thing has seriously freaked me out.
So let’s all agree your future should involve writing, not roaches. Okay? Good. Now that we’re on the same page, it’s time to do something about that gin-soaked sot who likes to criticize everything you write. In other words…
Make friends with your Writer’s Intuition.
Writer’s intuition is the part of us that knows the story is there. It believes in us, and is utterly convinced (and rightly so) that this tale is OURS, and only WE can tell it properly.
When we first start to write, our Writer’s Intuition is on the quiet side. It’s kind of shy. But it ALWAYS has pompoms and is ready to supply us with encouragement whenever you-know-who gets rowdy and belligerent. But as low key as it might first appear, here’s a big secret about our gut instinct:
It can convert our Internal Editor into a powerful writing ally.
You see, our writer’s intuition is what the Internal Editor wants to be. If you strip away the insecurity of the IE, add a dash of patience, well, we have somebody who’s really trying to help us.
Once we’ve drafted our novel and are ready to revise the reality is, we NEED to know when we’ve slipped in a cliché, written a cardboard character, or if our pace is slower than wheelchair race at a retirement home.
We all need an Internal Editor…just not a toxic one.
So how do we develop our intuition and transform the Internal Editor from Foe to Friend?
1) Mute the Internal Editor during drafting. That is one time you should never, ever let IE nag you. Drafting is pure creation, so give yourself over to it. Allow yourself free rein to transcribe the essence of the story without worrying if the writing is brilliant or not. (Spoiler alert: it won’t be. And that’s okay!) Just write, and have fun.
2) Take the time to learn your craft. Books on writing can give you a huge leg up. Blog posts are bite-sized gems packed with advice. Join a writer’s group, get involved in forum discussions, and take a workshop for a spin. Dig for knowledge wherever it can be found because the more you know, the more you will come to trust your Writer’s Intuition. The resulting confidence puts YOU in charge, not the Internal Editor.
3) Give freely to others. There is no better way to tell good writing from bad than critiquing. When we focus on another person’s story, we can be more objective because it isn’t ours. This distance allows us to better recognize what works and what doesn’t, and these lessons stay with us and can be applied to our own writing.
4) Start LISTENING to your intuition…even when you don’t want to. You know, like when your gut says there’s a problem with a scene but you tell yourself the Agent or Editor will find the rest so dazzling they’ll not notice it. Yeah, THAT.
Look, we all feel the temptation to hit SEND rather than slog through another revision, but it’s important we don’t give in. If your instinct tells you there’s a problem, get some fresh opinions on your story and revise as needed. You only get one chance to impress, so always send out your best.
5) Pursue knowledge ALWAYS. As much as I would love to tell you that you will reach a magical point where your writing will be perfect, I can’t. None of us are experts, not even the most successful of authors. We can always strengthen our craft. Embrace learning and feed your passion to grow. Your writer’s intuition will grow with you!
Oh, and one more cool thing to note?
Well-honed writing intuition can free you from much of the emotional volatility you experience when someone is “dissecting your baby.”
A strong gut instinct for spotting good writing means you’re more confident. This allows you to disengage from negative emotions quicker because you can see the wisdom in the feedback you get (and sort good from bad). And because you’re in charge, the negative side of the Internal Editor fades, leaving you with a terrific partner that will help you create your best writing yet.
What do you do to improve your Writer’s Intuition? Let us know in the comments!
Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.