Those of you who understand a love/hate relationship will know what I’m talking about when I share that my inner editor is both loved and hated—and often at the same time.
A writer’s inner editor is part of the executive function and self-regulation of the brain. Children aren’t born with these skills, but they are born with the potential to develop them. The full range of abilities continues to grow and mature through the teen years and into early adulthood (hopefully).
My inner editor resembles a Type A personality. What made her so strong? A love for the written word? A desire that everything be on target all the time? A need for accomplishment or recognition? Trying to outperform my latest work? It might be any of these. Or it might be none of them. It’s hard to tell, but she continues to get reinforced.
Fact is, I love my internal editor as long as she remembers her place by improving my writing through critique group editing, learning new techniques and deciding when and when not to use literary license. She also eliminates writing that does not further plot, tightens the work by losing unnecessary wordiness, describing settings, checking historical information and assigning character traits to enlarge personality.
Love turns to hate when she gets in the way of creativity. I hate it when she interrupts to add a semi-colon or change a word when I struggle to write a first draft. She gets in my way when I read for pleasure by finding different ways to express the writers’ thoughts or wanting to rewrite a character. I think she has an arrogant streak. She just can’t stop being a real pest! When I fall asleep while reading, I dream about rewriting the last paragraph that I read. Seems she doesn’t need rest. Occasionally, after I have finished and published a piece, she glances through it to find ways I might improve it—too late. I note any error, hoping that others will pass over it and leave it unnoticed. Occasionally my heart sinks until I persuade myself that being imperfect only makes me human and lovable to my readers (?).
At these times, I need to say, “Put a sock in it. I can’t change it now, so get over it!” That can quiet her—at least for the moment. My internal editor needs kind discipline. She needs to know she is important without having to run the show all the time. I literally talk to her when I need her to be quiet, saying, “Okay, you need to let me be while I do this.” A bit schizophrenic of me, but it works.
On the other hand, I love my internal editor when she encourages me to learn from others. I appreciate her when something inappropriate runs rampant through my mind but fails to be expressed by my mouth or on the page. I concur with her when I want to send that cranky email but she thinks better of it. I love her when she embraces my own writing with “Hey, not bad!” She is an important part of myself, and I will continue to love and hate her.