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January 16, 2013

Jennings Wright: Inner Editor

I just put "inner editor" into my Bing search bar. This is what I got: 43,600,000 results. Google, not to be outdone, has "about" 84,800,000 results. I find that astonishing! And people are still looking for answers on how to deal with it. So what to do?

First recognize the enemy. The inner editor is a demon of epic proportions that's got to be at least as scary as a balrog. Like a balrog (my own balrog experience being limited to The Lord of the Rings), it's the bane of writers everywhere. In fact, it's so scary that many would-be writers never venture forth into writer-land, afraid that the flaming whip is going to come out of the dark recesses of their mind and snatch them right off their feet. Many who start writing aren't able to stand up to the balrog like Gandalf does in The Lord of the Rings, uttering my favorite line of the whole book/movie: YOU. SHALL NOT. PASS. Many, if  not most, don't think they have that power.

Let me assure you, friends, you do. You, too, can stand on that rickety writing bridge, turn to face the demonic inner editor, and throw down the gauntlet. You, too, can look that flaming freakazoid in the fiery eyeballs and refuse to back down. You, too, can claim your territory, draw a line in the sand, and put a stop to the tyranny by saying "I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS!"

Who is this inner editor anyway? Well, like the balrog, he or she lives down in the dark recesses of your mind. Usually, it's content with scathing remarks when you're standing in front of the mirror or when you say something you're not sure if you regret. But get out the pen and paper, or computer, or paintbrush and paint, and its true nature comes swelling into life. It says:
  • How dare you think you have anything to say to the world?
  • How dare you presume to write 50,000 or 100,000 words and expect anyone to read it? And certainly don’t expect them to like it…
  • Who told you that you could write?
  • Who told you that you could do anything at all unique, interesting or good?
  • Who do you think you are????
If you forge ahead anyway, the inner editor goes from vastly exaggerated statements of your measly self-worth to minutia in an instant.
  • Your grammar sucks.
  • That sentence sucks.
  • Why would you choose that word?
  • This is crap.
  • Those people are one dimensional, unbelievable, and stupid.
  • You are one dimensional, unbelievable and stupid.
  • This whole thing is stupid. Let's just order pizza and watch a movie.
And if you don't turn at some point in this whole process and say it -- say "You shall not pass!" right then and there -- you will quit. You will close your laptop or cap your pen, wander off to the tv to see what’s recorded on the DVR, and quit. And the balrog... uh, inner editor... will smirk and smile and leave you alone for a while, so you have peace and forget about that stupid writing thing.

Well. Are you going to give up that easily? Believe it or not, the inner editor can only be stopped by taking a stand. Sure, you can trick it. You can use tips and tricks and get some of your first draft done, and that would definitely be a great accomplishment. But what if you actually want to do something with the story? That will require finishing it and editing it, and the inner editor will get louder and louder. And you have to shut it up, or your novel will be one of millions in drawers, old hard drives and dusty boxes the world over.

It IS necessary to be honest with ourselves about our writing. It IS necessary to get beta readers who will be honest with us about our writing. It IS necessary to edit and edit and edit, and try to make it the very best it can be. But if you don't believe in yourself and your writing, if you won't take a stand for it against the inner editor/balrog, won’t reach your goals. Humility is one thing. False humility is another. Your balrog isn't a pet... It's an enemy. One only you can fight. Will you stand up for yourself and your vision and take a stand? (I think you can order whips like Gandalf’s online, if you need a confidence booster!)

About the Author:

Born and raised in Rockledge, Florida, Jennings spent her early years reading anything she could get her hands on, when she wasn't spending time in and on the water. She won a prize in the 6th grade for her science fiction stories.

Jennings attended the University of the South and the University of Tampa, graduating with a B.A. in Political Science, and almost enough credits for B.A.s in both English and History. She spent time over the years doing various kinds of script doctoring, business writing, editing, and teaching writing, but mostly having and raising her family, homeschooling her children, owning and running a business with her husband, and starting a non-profit to Uganda.

Thanks to a crazy idea called NaNoWriMo Jennings got back into creative writing in 2011 and hasn't stopped since. She's written four novels and a screenplay in less than a year, with more ideas on the drawing board. She currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, also a writer, and two children, and travels extensively.
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