Writers, how do you kill your self-editor?

Karalee’s Post #102

I’ve put my writing aside over the last few weeks. In November and December I’d written a fast first draft, well, nearly to ‘The End’, and I find it’s helpful to put my work on the back burner for a while before readdressing it with fresh eyes.

I’ve also put something else on the back burner for over twenty years that has to be addressed ASAP! My only daughter is getting married in July, and I have 40+ video tapes that I’d taken during my 3 children’s childhoods that need to be formatted on to DVD’s. Technology is amazing. So is the amount of time it takes to watch them. I’m not done yet either…. Then comes the editing….

I’m also committed to have a finished manuscript this year, complete and ready to publish. That includes formatted, edited, book jacket done, marketing platform up and running, etc., etc., etc.


So, I’m back at my manuscript again, intending to read it from start to finish, intending to lock my self-editor where she can’t find the key.

No such luck! I find it very unfortunate that I’m one of those writers that rewrites way WAY before I should rewrite. And I tend to keep rewriting, ESPECIALLY the first few scenes.

My self-editor seems to have a life of her own and can go on and on until I feel like this skeleton picture. Really.

Boy do I want to, but I haven’t yet found a way to kill her or even maim her until she can’t function properly.

2001 A Space Odyssey

My self-editor is like Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey. She takes over, looping my story around and around,  rearranging words from here to over there, adding sensory stuff and emotional ties to my characters before deleting it and adding something else, and on and on……. She takes complete control, stifling much of my creativity and ignores me like I’m not even there.

Do you get stuck like this too?

Believe me, it’s not a romantic relationship, not even a love-hate and let’s-kiss-and-make-up relationship. It’s a war. And I must win!

I would love to take my self-editor and tie her up like this (or worse) and force her to sign a contract that said, ‘Do not touch until your creative half finishes reading, digesting and getting excited about the manuscript again.’

Then I would have a chance of making progress.

And of course, once the contract was signed, I would tie her hands behind her back to make sure she behaved.

What do you feel like doing to your self-editor?


Progress this week: not much. Need to kill you-know-who.

Pies, cookies, cakes and muffins eaten: none, but felt like going to our neighborhood bakery and not coming home to you-know-who.

TV/Movies watched: Last half of Downton Abbey Season 4. Did not invite you-know-who to join me.

Goal next week: skip first few chapters in my manuscript in order to ignore you-know-who and get my work done.

Book I’m reading: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris. First book of his I’ve read and I love his humor and the style of his writing.

Happy Writing!



10 thoughts on “Writers, how do you kill your self-editor?

  1. Maybe you could stop believing in your self-editor. Every time she pipes up tell her you’re too busy reading to listen. You don’t have to listen to her 🙂 Maybe this would work. I dunno. I don’t have that kind of self-editor.

    • Thanks Alison! I’ve given my self-editor the cold shoulder before. Maybe I’m too nice and have to toughen up more? 🙂

      • I think Silk’s absolutely right, it’s the child wanting to be a good girl, the best she can be, perfect, and we so become afraid we’ll be giving up something that is not only useful but necessary. Give her the cold shoulder, surrender to imperfection and see what arises in her place!

  2. I TOTALLY get this, Karalee. In fact, my self editor insists on being present during every moment of my writing time. She’s like a fly buzzing around my head. A very unwelcome, perfectionist chaperone. I hope you are able to hogtie your editor and throw her in the closet for a while. Don’t forget to gag her. Then shut the door, go into another room and have your own way before she breaks out and hovers over you once again. Ah! If it were only this simple. The real problem is our self-editors are locked inside our brains, probably artifacts of our childhoods, when we tried so hard (with very limited success) to be good girls and make these unreasonable bitches (sorry) happy. Of course, they’re never satisfied. Maybe the trick is to learn not to care — embrace imperfection. It’s so much more interesting than perfection anyway!

    • Thanks Silk. You are so right! How our childhoods influence us! I’m more aware of my self-editor now, so I will practice ignoring her and enjoy chaining her out in the garage where she can’t be in my face! Stay tuned for an update!

  3. How about telling her to take her turn, as soon as friends X, Y and Z have read and commented, then she is welcome. She will be really useful in the later stages, where every word needs to be just so, No need to dis her, just send her on holiday until the mS is ready for her.

    • Thanks Hilary. That is my dilemma. My self-editor is very useful at the right times. Invaluable really. You have given me an inspiration. If I think about my self-editor as my detective-on-hire, I can have her wait her turn. Certainly worth a try as it suits the way I write. Thanks!

  4. I hear you Karalee. Time to assert yourself, but don’t piss her off. Like Hilary above wisely said, you will need her at some point – hopefully soon – when every scene in your story has to make sense and every word in your manuscript has to be perfect. She will be invaluable to show you how to tie loose ends and add suspense to your sagging middle. I would be careful not to treat her too unkindly.

  5. When you find something that works, could you please share? 😉 My inner editor has always enjoying taking over—even before I’ve completed a rough draft. At that stage, I’ve at least taught her to just “leave a note” that something needs revisiting/revising when it is time to edit. It allows me to keep going with the rough draft. I’m hoping that will work when I go back to the rough draft after it’s completed and left to sit for a few weeks!

    • Hi JM. I’ve had quite a conversation with this topic on LinkedIn in the group Books and Writers. Two suggestions I’m going to try are:
      1. set a timer. Let my self-editor have 20 minutes and then reign her in!
      2. whatever my self-editor wants to ‘correct’ or ‘change,’ put in the key idea in the center of a piece of paper and then mind map ideas that arise. This can (I hope) jump-start creativity and keep progress going.
      Hope this helps!

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