This past year or so I’ve learned that writing is a lot like gardening, for me anyway. I love plants, and I tried my damndest to be a nurturing, green-thumbed plant momma. Unfortunately, I used to kill literally everything I touched, which was 3 hanging plants inside, a couple of standing plants (those deaths were more due to the cats chewing on them), an entire herb garden, potted trees, and cacti. Yes. I killed a cactus. Well, two actually.
Yet somehow, now, I am the proud mother of a thriving succulent, Elysium, boxed leaf Euonymus, a tomato plant, a Croton, and a tree.
(If anyone knows the name of the tree on the bottom, please let me know)
What is the secret of my newfound knowledge? Let them do their thing. Only help them out (water, soil) when it looks like they need it. Letting them be was something I didn’t want to accept before. I wanted to fix them before they were broken. I didn’t give them a chance to know what thirst was before I smothered them with my love.
I was editing a short story (for the millionth time) to submit to a journal, and I realized I was digging around sentence-level deep, trimming nouns, adjectives, and adverbs like a Norelco on nitrous. And I wondered, at what point is it too much? At what point do we need to just let it go
so it can breathe? Like a good port. Like a first-born child on their first day of school (nobody cares by the second one, right?). This is why we have to walk away from our work. I don’t know yet how much I mutilated that short story, because I’m afraid to look at it, but I think I might have done something akin to the time I killed one of my plants by giving it Gatorade as a plant food substitute. What? It’s got sugars…electrolytes. Okay, that was my early green-thumbing-it days, people. And it was like 4 drops! How was I supposed to know plants were intolerant to Cool Blue Gatorade?
Anyway, here are 5 ways to free your inner bard without the invasive, mouth-breathing editorial projection of ourselves in our ears–or was smothering mother the metaphor we were going with?–destroying something before it has the chance to live.
• Timed-writing: I am that naughty writer that reads what I just wrote before continuing on. It’s a problem. Timed-writing helps though, because I feel the crunch and just let my fingers fly on the keyboard. It has the potential to unearth things you might have otherwise censored if you were allowing your inner editor to fill your writing space with his onion breath.
• Free-writing: Do this in conjunction with the first one or without a timer. It helps. Seriously.
• Write long-hand: Something about this method of composition, also, discussed here, opens up creativity channels you never dreamed you could access. When writing like this, you are more likely to not only be more concise with your writing because of the hand cramps, but more natural and less likely to go back and brave your horrific handwriting (is that just me?) to reread, risking premature editing.
• Music: One word, two syllables: Pandora. Be careful with that Dubstep though. You don’t want this to happen.
• Imbibing? Just kidding. Unplug: This may not seem relevant, but hear me out. My inner editor jumps out all the time—“what’s the word for that again? Look it up” or “You should probably know a little more before you start writing about that, Poser”—taking me away from my work. If you shut down access to the web and all the many distractions that come with it, or at least restrict yourself, you set yourself up for unhindered writing time. With Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter constantly pulling on your attention, you will return to your writing and reread what you just wrote to remind yourself what the deuce you were doing, which leads to unwanted editing. See the connection?
Recently, I developed an addiction to Twitter as I have started to understand how great of a platform it is for writers to connect with each other. But it’s time to set a limit on Twitter usage of once a day for less than an hour, ideally. I’ll let you know if I make progress with this.
So unplug. Silence your phone and tell the others in your house that you’re going away for a while. Or, it could be as simple as hiding distractions on your screen. I found this free app called Poe that clears everything from your screen while you write. I already have Scrivener which does that too, but Poe boasted a word count and timer feature I got all aquiver about. You have to scroll over the charms and click the word count charm to see the time clock and word count goals, which I guess is kind of good since you’re trying to avoid distractions anyway. Scrivener has been unable to replace Microsoft Word in my heart as my old standby word processor, for whatever damn reason, but Poe is nice when I really want to block everything out. Beware the wonky formatting.
Have any tricks to add to shut that snarky inner editor up? Add them in the comments. Or if mine helped you see the light, let me know. Whatever you do, get a handle on that inner editor now, or Samuel L. Jackson will find you.