Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Six Techniques to Silence Your Internal Editor

Do you know what is the biggest barrier between you and success at writing? Your internal editor.

We all have an annoying little voice in our heads that tries to edit and correct our text while we write. This little voice is a key obstacle to creativity. It disrupts the free flow of your thoughts. It rewrites and rephrases. It makes you hit the backspace key all the time.

This voice has a role in good writing, but that role comes much later, during the editing phase--not when you are composing first-draft material. Thus it is critical that your internal editor wait its turn, or else it will crush the life out of your creative process.

Here are six ideas you can use to shut off your mental editor:

Ban the backspace key
Most of us spend more time hammering at the backspace key than any other key. But when you're composing new text, outlaw it. Don't let it interrupt your rhythm. Keep writing! Get your ideas down and don't worry about correcting things just yet. You can fix spelling, grammar and style errors later.

Start with the easy parts
Start working on the sections of your writing task where you already know pretty much what you're going to write. Save the more difficult sections for later. You'll get into a creative rhythm and it will quiet your editor.

Try composing by speaking into a digital or tape-based recording device. There's no such thing as a backspace key when we speak (although I know a few people who should have one installed). Later, when it's time to transcribe your work, you can choose to turn on your editor.

Write with your monitor turned off
Some writers claim that writing without seeing what you're writing causes the inner editor to completely shut up. And there's no point in hitting the backspace key because you can't see any mistakes to fix!

Set a speed goal
Give yourself a goal that has nothing to do with the quality or style of your work. Let's say you type about 30 words a minute. Set a goal to write 450+ words in the next 15 minutes, without regard to quality. This will force you to limit backspace use and keep you focused on getting words down on the page.

Give yourself permission to make mistakes.
Deeply realize that you are in creative mode, not a perfection mode. Get your mind used to seeing typos and mistakes. Let them happen, and give yourself permission to let them go.

You are welcome to edit your text as ruthlessly as you like--later! Just make sure you muzzle that internal editor while you're composing. It will get its turn.