Some days the grouch in me can turn me into an unpleasant-to-be-around complainer. It’s those days you hear me muttering at the computer screen as if the words therein are animate: “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you see that isn’t what I intended to say at all? Get it right, for Pete’s sake!” The words never answer back. They just sit there and leer at me.
On her new Blog, “ElderFox” talks about the creative “entities” that invade a writer’s mind. (I hope she’s going to tell us more about hers!) When the wrong ones gain control and squelch our dreams, we don’t achieve our goals. In fact, a little of our writing spirit is destroyed every time they even knock at the mind’s door. Among such beings is every writer’s voice of doom, the I.E., or Internal Editor—the nagging voice that constantly reminds us we don’t know how to write, everything we’ve written so far is garbage, and the project is destined to be a failure.
So what do we do about it? Most aspiring authors recognize that we all suffer from a form of split personality, where our minds are full of developing characters anxious to take on a life of their own. We welcome them as an important part of our story planning. It is the negative voices, the procrastinating urges, the don’t-write-until-the-concept-is-perfect impulses that we have to recognize and snuff out… whap them smartly with a wet blanket until no embers remain.
Otherwise the tendency will be to hesitate, to falter, to be discouraged. Then our writing ceases and we blame it on Writer’s Block. We wait it out, hoping Ms. Muse will miraculously return to our office but it rarely happens, or at least not as quickly as we wish.
IMHO, there’s no half measure. Either we take control or we lose it, perhaps to one of those unworthy entities. And truly, I don’t want one of them authoring my book!
9 thoughts on “Taking Control of the I.E.”
About that tendency to hesitate and to doubt ourselves — here’s a quote I love:
To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”
— Joseph Chilton Pearce
I think that’s what the I.E. really is, at least for me — a fear of being wrong. Of not writing well or properly. Of not living up to my own hopes and expectations. Of seeming foolish. Of failing. That fear will squash creativity every time! (IMHO)
I’m hardly an expert but my approach is to get the ideas down & turn them into a completed 1st draft. I’ll do rough edits 5 or 6 chapters at a time during the process (I print everything out & use a red flair – adding notes or making actual changes – usually while I’m on the beach – go figure) but I don’t get too bogged down with the minutia until later. With my first book – Chapter 1 actually ended up becoming Chapter 25 (out of 26) & made for a really fun double twist ending that freaked everyone out. (I love getting emails from readers.)
With my current WIP, I tried something different. Rather than start at “the beginning” & work through to the end, I wrote some chapters when the ideas were jumping. It makes it tougher to be act as the continuity cop but I can see/hear/feel the freshness, humor & excitement – even as I type. I do update a summary / outline each time I stop for the day (night), including brief descriptions, so I can stay on track – but I don’t map out the entire story.
During the re-write / edit stage – I don’t hold back on ripping things apart. I’m not married to the words on the screen. If something doesn’t help the story – it’s gone. Same with dialogue. If it’s snappy & funny, but ultimately (in my mind anyway) a “gap filler” – sayonara.
I just don’t worry about mistakes during the creative stage – it shuts my imagination down & gets me frustrated. Maybe it’s different with non fiction or something more ‘literary’ – I dunno. I write fiction for kids that like fast paced action mixed with humor & history. Always rated G by the way. Sorry for being long-winded.
Excellent quote, Shari. I may borrow it to post somewhere obvious in my office! Fear of failing can definitely have a dampening affect –even make us unwilling to try at all. It takes a lot of courage to banish the I.E., or to push past him and carry on despite him.
Dave, I admire your ability to not worry about mistakes during the creative stage. It’s what we all advocate, but it’s easier to say than do for me. Being able to vary your approach depending on the project and being ruthless in editing are two great techniques that obviously are serving you well. I bet you’ll be moving into to a third book before long!?
Careann – Sometimes I think writing is like creating a painting. I have several artist friends & they’ve all told me there are times when they’ll get what’s in their mind onto the canvas only to make changes at the bloody end at midstream. I suppose ya just gotta avoid the ‘paralysis by analysis’ stumbling block.
BTW – Check out http://www.russkramer.com – his paintings are fantastic, if you like maritime themes.
Hmmm… how did my real name show up????
Dave, Russ Kramer’s paintings are remarkable… they capture so much motion! Thanks for the link.
Re: your real name showing up… you may have been logged into your own site and maneuvered away to mine before logging out… but I’m not sure.
Last year I was all fired up when I began my 6th manuscript Dead Wrong. This year I feel dried up. If I’m in a slump, it’s because I’m ignoring the tools I’ve used in the past to get me past this stage. And there are a lot of them: music, good books, walks along the beach, captivating movies, etc etc…
I’ve been quick to say I’m suffering from “Writer’s Block” mainly because people understand the state of being without a lot of explanation. But honestly, it is something I could overcome if I tried harder. Why I don’t, I’m not sure. But then I’m not spending much time dwelling on it. Sore back, painful neck, neglected yard and garden seem a good enough reason.
The strangest thing is I’m not beating myself up about it. This will pass.
Joylene: At the best of times the cycle of human emotions guarantees that creativity can’t be constantly sustained at its highest peak. It’s logical to expect waning periods. Besides that, I think a focus on healing is a justifiable priority for you right now! Take care of yourself. That you recognize this time will pass is a mark of your experience as a writer.
You are so right! All the thoughts you described in the internal editor are plaguing me right now. It’s so difficult to plow through this phase. I’ve read that a first draft is like the initial blush of love, and by later drafts you’re deep into a decades-long marriage and have to tend to it lest it lose it fall apart all together. 🙂
Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. I’ll look forward to reading more in the future!