Julie Artz | author, editor, book coach, dragon

[Wyrd Words Weekly] When to press the Mute button on the internal editor and when to listen to her...

published2 months ago
3 min read

Hello Reader,

If you've been in my community for a while, you've probably heard me talk here, on social media, and even on podcasts about silencing the inner editor. Then my extremely wise and thoughtful client, Sara Avant Stover, posted this Reel, in which she lists the reasons she never tells writers to silence their inner editor, and it got me thinking.

Because she's absolutely right. Understanding where our inner critic comes from (hint: it's often the internalization of words you heard from trusted adults when you were a child) and why she's piping up in any given moment (fear, imposter syndrome, lack of self-confidence) is important work. In fact, I'd go so far as to say this level of self-awareness is critical in order to do the tough work of living a creative life.

As with so many things in life, this is a "yes, and" for me. Yes, I spend a lot of time (including with my therapist) digging into why that internal editor tells me I'm a terrible writer when I've been a successful professional writer since my very first job out of college more than 20 years ago. Why I constantly have to adjust my mindset and fight past those doubt demons to do the work I do.

And I know that internal critic well enough now to tell her to pipe down when I sit down at my desk to write. She's a part of me and that's not going to change. But she doesn't paralyze me anymore. She doesn't hold me back from the work I know I'm meant to do. That doesn't mean she's gone, just that I've learned to live with her. I hope you can too.

Want to hear more about how I get past imposter syndrome and that pesky internal editor? Listen to my recent podcast appearance on Turning Readers into Writers with Emma Desai.

Enough woo-woo, what's the tl;dr?

Even if you're not in regular healing conversation with your internal editor, you probably struggle to get down a first draft without the doubt demons creeping in. So one practical solution I have for you is to stop calling your first attempt at writing a story a "first draft."

In my work with writers, I see them putting all sorts of layers of meaning on that term. First complete draft. First sharable draft. First real draft. First good draft. And those qualifiers are exactly what leads to paralysis when you sit down to write. Have you ever caught yourself thinking:

"Ugh, that sentence was awful, I better go back and tinker."
"I don't know the specific historical detail I need for this scene, I better go read 10 books on it."

"The world-building is a little thin here, I better go buy Wonderbook."

While it's true that sometime between now and your final revisions you need to tinker with line edits, complete your research, and maybe even shore up some craft knowledge, you don't need to do those things right now. And in fact, doing so is likely a distraction that's there to protect you from the fear that you won't be able to transform this kernel of an idea into a fully realized manuscript.

That's why I've renamed that original draft a zero draft. A zero draft is just for you. It's allowed to be imperfect and incomplete and exploratory, and you're allowed to create it without going back to try to fix or polish a single word until you get to the end. Because you can’t actually effectively refine the beginning of your story until you at least have the emotional impression of the end.

I use NaNoWriMo to fast draft my way through a zero draft that is full of notes to myself, holes, and other perfect imperfections. It helps me write despite that pesky internal critic and gets me to where I really want to be, the place where the real magic happens: REVISION!

BONUS from the amazing Jen Louden

Non-fiction writing coach and best-selling author of 9 books Jen Louden shared her 5 Ways to Start your Non-Fiction Book downloadable with me and I have to say that I love this tool for fiction and non-fiction alike. Are you looking for a way to shake up your process and dig into WHY you want to write a book in the first place? You'll love her free tool: As she says, "writing a non-fiction book doesn't have to be such a big dang do."

I hope you've enjoyed Wyrd Words Weekly this year. As the year draws to a close, I've realized it's one of my favorite parts of the workweek. I'm so thankful to be doing this work and being in conversation with YOU.