We all have an inner critic or editor, a voice in the back of our heads that gives us suggestions as we write.
Sometimes these suggestions are helpful, reminding us of a more provocative word to use, or to show more and tell less.
But listening to our inner critics can prevent pure output, hindering us in the long run.
We need to output so that we can shape and cut away later. The words need to be written now so they can be edited later.
Here are some ways that you can turn off your inner editor or critic, so that it can be utilized later:
Don’t Focus on Imperfections
If you focus on imperfections, then you will always be surrounded by mistakes.
There is no such thing as perfection, it is merely a concept.
There will always be mistakes in your work, something for your inner critic or editor to latch onto, so don’t give it the chance.
When you notice a mistake in your work, move on from it.
If you need to, saying something out loud or writing something down is a good way to let yourself know that you’re going to be ignoring your mistakes. Every so often I have to remind myself that I can come back to my mistakes later.
Learn to Type With Your Eyes Closed
I can’t remember when I started typing with my eyes closed, all I can remember is that it helps.
When I type with my eyes closed I don’t have the mental power to critique my own work, I’m too busy focusing on maintaining my rhythm on the keyboard, remembering where the keys are.
Because I’m so focused on those things, there’s no time to critique myself, there is only writing. And I know that as long as the words are readable, I can always go back and edit later.
Forget About Originality
I believe that originality, like perfection, is a concept and not something that can actually exist.
This frees me from having to worry about originality in my work, and also helps me absorb more from my sources of inspiration.
When you’re not worried about originality, you can begin to analyze your favorite works in an effort to determine what makes them work, and you can do so without having to worry that you’re not being creative enough.
This allows for great improvements, as instead of trying to force yourself to come up with something new, you can learn about the tried and true methods of story telling and apply those methods to your own work.
Give Yourself a Tight Deadline
This won’t work for everyone, but I find that giving myself a tight deadline for writing (and artwork) helps me stay focused.
It also helps keep me in the mindset of “done is good enough”.
I have a strict deadline of one blog post a week for this blog, but I almost always give myself only two days for each post, one day to write, and another day to edit. This forces me into getting my writing done in just one day, which has helped keep me out of a perfectionist mindset.
Doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) works in much the same way. By giving yourself a goal of 50,000 words over the course of 30 days, you have to abandon thoughts of perfection if you’re going to succeed.
Lock Away Your Inner Critic or Editor
Something that I’ve done in the past with success is literally locking away my inner critic or editor.
This may sound kind of strange, so hear me out.
Create some sort of physical representation of your inner editor or critic. This could be a drawing of it, a crafted doll, or just a piece of paper with the words ‘my inner editor’ or ‘my inner critic’ on it.
Then put it in a locked box, or hide it in a bag at the back of your closet. Put it somewhere where it’s locked or sealed away, and say this out loud:
“I hide away my inner critic/editor. While it is gone I will not critique myself, or edit my words.”
Doing this helps reinforce that you shouldn’t be editing or critiquing your own work, and creates a physical representation of this.
Practice Writing Without Critiquing or Editing Yourself
Practice makes progress, so a good way to make progress on turning off your inner critic or editor is to practicing writing without editing or critiquing yourself.
I would do this by giving myself a short time limit (such as 5 minutes) and finding an intriguing writing prompt. Then I would try to write as much as possible within those 5 minutes, without critiquing or editing myself.
I would keep doing that with different writing prompts until I got to the point where I was happy with how little I was critiquing or editing my words.
As a bonus, doing that exercise is a great way to get ideas or openings for stories.
Quantity > Quality
A saying that’s driven into our minds from a very young age is that quality is better than quantity.
But I think that quantity leads to quality, especially in writing.
Because you’ll learn more from writing 100,000 words poorly than you will from writing one well-crafted sentence.
Humans learn from mistakes, so the more mistakes you make, the more you’ll learn.
Try approaching your writing from a perspective of quantity over quality, or even quantity leading to quality, and see how much more you learn from it.
Never Edit Something on the Same Day You Write It
I have a rule that I never edit something the same day that I write it.
This is why I always write blog posts over a minimum of two days, because I need at least one separate day for editing.
I’m not sure when or where I learned this rule, I just remember being told that I should allow my brain to detach from my writing before I edit it. It allows me to see my work with fresh eyes, which in turn allows for better editing.
I do a similar thing with my artwork as well, I take frequent breaks so that my eyes can refresh and I can see the mistakes I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
Turning off your inner editor or critic is a difficult thing to do, but learning to do so will help you improve on your productivity and output.
If you found this post helpful, please leave a like or share it with someone else who’d find it helpful. I blog about writing tips, tricks, and advice every Wednesday, so check back next week for some new content.