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My Relationship with my Inner Editor

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It is scary how much she looks like Rebecca

Last week on our amazing writers' group, we talked about our inner editor. I've shared this exercise that changed my relationship with my inner editor. The idea is to make a character out of your inner editor, to get to know her.

My inner editor's name is Rebecca. She has long blonde hair tied in a bun, and black-rimmed glasses perching on her beak-like nose, hiding her piercing deep brown eyes. She always wears a skirt suit, high heels, and perfect makeup. She used to stand over my shoulder while I was writing and say things like "that's not a sentence" or "What a cliche" (she said that about the piercing deep brown eyes).

When I first did this exercise and gave a face and voice to this inner editor, that was when I realised that she's been standing over my shoulder, criticising me and holding me back from writing. Writing used to be a lot of hard work back then. The exercise specifies that once we have the character, we need to lock her up somewhere until we're done writing.

At first, I wanted to lock her in the basement. She's been cruel to me, bullied me out of writing when I was an insecure adolescent, and never had anything nice to say. I was angry with her for a long while. But, after some consideration, I decided to lock her up in the attic. The attic has a high ceiling and two windows, and all the clutter I don't wish to tidy up. She's still locked up for the duration of my writing time, but she has things to do if she feels like it. She can tidy up, for instance.

I keep her locked in the attic while I write, and then when I edit I let her out. She reads my stuff and, at first, she had only nasty things to say. But slowly, our relationship has improved, and she became a little more constructive in her criticism. She would now say things like, "what a cliche, can't you find a better description?" And then I say, "How about eyes drilling holes in your skull? Or maybe eyes like icepicks, poised to stab you? Or razor-sharp eyes?" all of which she rejects as cliches (because they are). But at least I'm making progress, on the way to find a better description of piercing deep-brown eyes.

I have characters in my head all the time, and I have conversations with them all. the. time. Making my inner editor one of them helped me create a little bit of distance from her, helped me see what's helpful and unhelpful about her comments and develop a better relationship with her. Of course, it's part of me and not a separate entity, but when it comes down to it, it's all in my head anyway, right?


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