The Inner Editor is the perfectionist in you. It’s that part of your brain that tells you, “No matter how great your writing is, it’s not good enough.”
It’s a debilitating disease, IE. You can never finish a project because it never lives up to the inner editor’s standards. You’re unwilling to share your work with others because you feel it will never be good enough–they deserve better. With this disease, you waste away your life tweaking and improving. Your manuscript will never see a bookstore, much less an agent’s desk.
Now, some people don’t suffer from IE syndrome. You are, somehow, blessedly immune. Of course, there are many who suffer from Big Head, which is the opposite of IE and tells you, “All you create is perfect and never needs improvement.”
Sufferers of BH are really no better off than sufferers of IE, for when you finish a project, you want to share it with everyone. You aren’t open to criticism since, of course, you work can never be wrong. You don’t bother with editing, don’t bother with classes or books, don’t bother with feedback–you have BH, so you don’t need it!
Sadly, though, the end result for BH sufferers is the same. You will also waste away your life, except your life is wasted by writing works that never improve. Your manuscript will never see a bookstore, much less an agent’s desk.
IE causes severe low self-confidence; the patient sees only failure and blames himself.
BH causes a severe sense of entitlement; the patient sees only failure and blames the world.
Fortunately, there is a cure for both of these illnesses, and that is a dose of reality. Remember:
- No writer has their first draft published. To quote Anne Lamott in Bird after Bird,
“I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts.“
- No one is perfect, only human. Whether you believe people are flawed for religious, scientific, or philosophical reasons, or you just know from experience that people ain’t perfect, the point is: we all make mistakes. A lot of them, in fact. So, no matter how brief or long you work, your manuscript will never be perfect. It is up to you to decide when it’s the best you can make it.
- Some people will like what you write (I’m pretty sure my Mom will always think I’m amazing), and some people will not. You can’t please everyone all of the time. It does not reflect on you but rather on the variety of tastes that exist across humanity. I don’t like horror, and I doubt I ever will. That doesn’t mean your gory, gutsy thriller isn’t any good–it’s just not for me.
Consider these points every time you find the symptoms of IE and BH getting in the way of your progress. You are your own medicine in this instant; it’s up to you to treat yourself and your work differently.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go fight my own battle against IE.
January 11, 2010 @ 6:26 pm
hahah love it…
I have an unhealthy combination of these two…
The IE in me makes me look everything over and edit a billion times before sharing with others. The IE in me is the reason I haven’t moved on to the section I’m supposed to write today because I’m re-editing the section I wrote yesterday…again.
Subsequently, the BH in me comes out when after all those hours of work – edits after edits after edits…somebody tells me they don’t get it, or I’ve missed something, or the one I regularly get from my parents: “This sounds far too academic.” I regret to inform them…it is academic! It’s a master’s thesis!
Still…I respect their feedback…and the feedback of others, but sometimes…it’s a serious kick in the pants! lol
Good luck with the battle!
January 11, 2010 @ 6:43 pm
Oh yeah, I hear you. I have more of a case of IE than anything. And that is just for my blog.