Sandra Suggests Kicking the Internal Editor to the Curb
July 10, 2009 | Written by admin
Writing is solitary. We are often so much in our own heads that sometimes we can forget we are writing for an audience. That's not always a bad thing.
There are times when, in writing fiction, for example, your characters run away with your story and you feel like your role is to just hit the keys and try to keep up. Unless you're under a tight deadline and your agent or editor is breathing down your neck, I think the worst thing a writer can do at times like these is to stop and let your internal editor step in and begin analyzing what you've written. There is a time for this, but not here. At times like these, my advice is to forget your internal editor and your external audience and enjoy the ride.
Such experiences are freeing and powerful for authors because these are the times when the editor in your head gives up, gets out, and lets you, the writer, take the wheel. It's a great feeling. Like driving on a sunny day along the 101 with the top down, the wind in your hair, no other cars on the road, and no one in the passenger seat fiddling with the radio or telling you they gotta stop and go whiz.
One of my favorite writing quotes is from Stephen King who said (about what, I'm not sure) "No, it's not a very good story – its author was too
busy listening to other voices to listen as closely as he should have
to the one coming from inside."
Whether you like Mr. King or not, I think you can agree when it comes to writing he knows what he's talking about here. How many authors are guilty of deciding they want (literally) to be the next John Grisham, Karen Kingsbury, Michael Chrichton, Nora Roberts, Debbie Macomber, Brandilyn Collins, Tom Clancy, Beverly Lewis, or Stephen King for that matter? If that's your mission as an author, good luck to you and let me know how that turns out. It's not that I'm opposed to encouraging authors to believe in their eventual success to the levels of these authors, it's just that if a writer sets out thinking they are going to follow the road these folks took, I think they don't consider one very important thing. That these authors blazed their own trails, followed their own directions, did their own thing and worked hard to develop their own voices along the way. And it's precisely because they did so that they found success. Commercially successful authors rarely become overnight successes without putting a lot of time behind the wheel.
Back to the point about kicking the editor out, though. The good news is that not only is it fun to write without the editor constantly telling you where to turn, or questioning if you're headed in the right direction, it's important. These are the times when authors typically find their unique voice – and often surprise themselves with their abilities.
Some who experience this kind of writing high say they've been visited by a muse and that it's a near celestial thing; one which cannot be forced. I think that's a big load of hooey. Writing is hard work – not magic. I think writers are destined to reach such zones if they stay after it. Maybe for some it's after a certain length of time at the keyboard, others find they can better access writing freedom at particular times of day. The key, I think, is to not wait for times of inspiration to get to work, but to work until the inspiration comes.
Of course, as Christians who write, we have direct access to one whose Voice we can and should listen to without reservation. I think, though, that there are times when even God himself knows the best thing He can do for his writer-kids is to let us take the wheel, exercise the creativity with which we were trusted, and learn on our own how to do it well.