Have you ever heard it said that an editor’s job is to edit while a writer’s job is to write?
For the most part, this is true. As writers, it’s important to let our creative juices flow freely without the presence of what author Julia Cameron refers to as our inner critic, that critical perfectionist voice that can get in the way of our progress, and when allowed to run rampant, will stop us dead in our tracks.
The question is, when do we need to bring our own self-editing into play?
Not in the beginning. Not while writing your first draft when you only want to do one thing: write, write, write! Let it pour forth. No judgment, no second guessing, no censorship. No organizing or reorganizing. Even if something doesn’t fit with your original outline, write what wants to be said. Whether you’re working on a memoir or the next great American novel, it’s important to allow your story to flow out of you in its entirety and in whatever way, shape, or form it presents itself.
During that first draft, turn off the part of your mind that wants to examine your technique. In the beginning, it doesn’t matter whether your parallelism is working or if you’ve generated a great submerged metaphor or even what parts should go or stay. Your goal is to create a first draft. There will be plenty of time for self-editing–starting with your second draft.
In a September 2011 Huffington Post article, author Arielle Ford stated, “Let it flow. When my sister, bestselling author Debbie Ford, was starting her first book, Peter Guzzardi, an editor at Random House, told her to write ten pages per day–without editing a single word of it. Just write, he told her. Follow Guzzardi’s advice, and try not to judge what comes out on the page. Just keep going. With practice, you’ll learn to let the words flow through you. Some authors describe it as an out-of-body experience that allows them to do their best writing.”
But what about our fear, which often shows up as the “editor”? It’s simply another way our inner critic tries to get into the act. Arielle Ford recommends that we befriend our fear. “The act of writing, particularly writing unedited, can be scary. Most writers, bestselling authors included, feel this fear at times. The best way I know to overcome it is to accept it–and then get back to writing.”
Julia Cameron recommends that we get to know our fear through morning pages, a daily practice of checking in with ourselves. Each day, when we rise and before we speak to anyone, she prescribes that we write three handwritten pages. We never know what might show up on those pages–our fears, our recounting of the previous day’s events, our anticipation of the current day’s schedule, or even statements such as, “I’m too tired today.” Whatever shows up is released on to those pages, freeing us to do what we really want–to write!
So, give it a try. Let go and let it flow. Write a little or a lot each day. Remember, this is your first draft, so no editors or inner critics allowed! Let yourself be what you want to be–the writer!
This blog post was written by Donna Mazzitelli, who is the editor on our Self-Publishing Experts Team. Visit her website: The Word Heartiste.