What to Do When Your Internal Editor Won’t Shut Up & Let You Write

My internal editor hates me. He won’t let me write a sentence without making me go back and reread it multiple times, weighing each action, word choice, and punctuation mark. (Yes, he just made sure I used the Oxford comma in the previous sentence.)

My Internal Editor of Evil has haunted my subconscious ever since I read Mindy Alyse Weiss’s post about “Fast Drafting.” In her post, Mindy mentioned the problem some writers face when they get bogged down in edit-as-they-go writing. This is me. If fast drafting is like a rushing river of creativity, my highly refined “Sloth Drafting” technique flows like congealed bacon grease thickened with corn starch. My internal editor just won’t shut up. In fact, he’s already made me delete two entire paragraphs of my post just to get to this sentence.

Anyway, my inability to overcome my internal editor made me curious:

How many other writers are Sloth Drafters?

In search of an answer to this question, I conducted groundbreaking research using a highly refined scientific technique—I did a poll on Facebook.

It ends up that about half the folks who contribute to the MUF blog have internal editors like mine. Their writing is a slow process with constant tweaks and revisions along the way. Fast-drafting writers zoom past and stick out their tongues while we Sloth Drafters are busy rearranging adjectives and deleting superfluous uses of the word that.

This brings me to what I want to share today—a writing trick for what to do when your internal editor won’t shut up. Of course, I have to start with a disclaimer: I’ve totally given up on writing fast. That’s why my anti-internal-editor trick intentionally avoids any actual writing. Let me explain.

When I feel my creativity lagging and I need to generate ideas, I know I need to turn off my internal editor. But at the same time, I remain stuck in my Sloth-Drafting rut. In these times, I’ve found myself moving more and more often from text to talk. I don’t write a scene; I speak it.

Sometimes I use the voice recorder on my phone. Other times I pull out a good ol’ cassette recorder. Regardless of the device employed, my goal is the same—to adlib a story or scene or snippet of dialogue in a sort of just-for-me spoken improv. I hit “RECORD” and riff away, seeing where it leads. My recording may only last for a minute or two, but I’ve found the lack of written words allows my ideas and creativity to flow more freely. Then—when my recorded riff is finished—I go back and listen. I write down what I’ve recorded, allowing my internal editor to have his way.

If you have another writing tip or trick for overcoming your internal editor, feel free to share it in the comments below. But even if you don’t have anything to share, if you’re a Sloth Drafter like me, don’t be afraid to embrace it. You’re not alone. Sloth Drafting isn’t evil. Your internal editor is part of who you are as a writer. And if you need to shut him up once in a while? . . . Well, just remember that you can  start talking, so your internal editor can’t.

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T. P. Jagger

Along with his MUF posts, T. P. Jagger can be found at www.tpjagger.com, where he provides brief how-to writing-tip videos as The 3-Minute Writing Teacher plus original, free readers’ theater scripts for middle-grade classrooms. For T. P.’s 10-lesson, video-based creative writing course, check him out on Curious.com.


6 responses to “What to Do When Your Internal Editor Won’t Shut Up & Let You Write

  1. Thank you for the suggestion.

    I definitely am a sloth writer (third rewrite of this comment) and I need every trick I can get my hands on to deal with it. I’ve been recording dead-middle-of-the-night ideas for quite some while now because, well, turning on the light makes it much harder for me to fall asleep again, but… I never tried adlibbing a scene.

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  3. Thanks for the tip. This slot writer is going to give a try.

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  4. You are a genius! I am so trying this trick.
    Gratefully Yours,
    The Slowest Sloth Ever.

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    T. P. Jagger Reply:

    Sally, I may give you a run for your money in “The Slowest Sloth Ever” category. But I’m glad you like the tip! 🙂

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  5. Enjoyed the post, thanks! 🙂 sloth writer too

    [Reply]

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