How to Silence Your “Inner Editor”

Your inner editor. Every writer has one. You know, it’s that annoying little voice in your head that edits your work while you write instead of having the decency to wait until you’ve finished. Don’t get me wrong, we need our inner editor. It has a rightful place in the writing process, but all too often it’s overactive, intrusive and interrupts the natural flow of our writing.

To be a productive writer, your inner editor must remain silent and wait its turn. Instead, that little voice complains about your word choices, sentence structure, your passive voice, wimpy verbs, and punctuation. It wouldn’t be so bad if it would accept the fact that words don’t just roll out of your head in the right order. After all, that’s why your first attempt at assembling words on a page is called a rough draft. And that’s why all writers agree that good writing is, in fact, good rewriting.

Let’s be clear. Your inner editor is indispensable, but not on the first draft. Capture your thoughts on paper first, and then summon your inner editor to clean up the mess. Only when your first draft is staring back at you, should you release this chap to do what it has been dying to do; question your prose, suggest stronger verbs, insist on active voice, and ask those probing questions. Did you say what you wanted to say? Is it clear? Is it unique? Have you made your point? Is it grammatically correct? How’s your spelling? Is it publishable?

When you keep your inner editor in its place, you’re more prolific because you write without restraint, without someone (or something) breathing down your neck, questioning your creativity and stifling your confidence. You are free to do what you do best—write.

When your thoughts are safely corralled on paper, you’ve done your job. Making your work great is the responsibility of your inner editor. Here are three ways to harness it until needed.

  • Give yourself permission to write a sloppy first draft. Just get it down, without interruption. Remember, your inner editor is waiting in the wings to clean it up.
  • Focus on momentum. Write for speed. Ignore the urge to edit. Say what you want to say; don’t worry about how well you said it.
  • Trust your writing ritual. Write the first draft uninhibited. Let it cool a week. Edit. Let it cool a day or two. Second edit. Final polish. Send it off. Start a new article.

Yes, every writer needs their inner editor, but don’t let it get ahead of you and interfere with your creative process. Here is a simple rule that might help. “You speak first; your inner editor speaks second.”

This rule should make your inner editor happy; after all, it has the last word.


The Writer’s Refuge blog is a place for writers, like you, to break away from your

daily routine and for just a few minutes find insight, inspiration or simply a word of

encouragement. Blog entries are posted once a week on Thursday.

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Published in: on October 19, 2011 at 9:45 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. that was deep.

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