This weekend, while working on a new short story, my brain decided to fight itself. Looking around online, it looks like the problem of “the creative mind vs. the editorial mind” is a common one. But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating for those dealing with it.
Here’s how it breaks down. On one side is the creative mind. This is the part of your brain that wants to plow ahead with a story. It’s brimming with ideas, twists, clever phrasings, and all sorts of goodies. Some of these ideas are helpful for the story, and some are not, but the creative mind doesn’t judge. It wants everything on the page. On the other side is the editorial mind. This part of your brain is brimming with grammar and usage rules, correcting spelling, and judging every word choice you make. In other words, the creative mind gets you typing, while the editorial mind has you hitting backspace.
There needs to be a balance between the two sides, but in the beginning, that balance should tilt towards the creative mind, then shift to the editorial mind later on. In the beginning, letting your inner editor have too much power might mean you never explore an interesting idea or that your prose loses some of its shine. But letting your creative side run wild in the later stages might mean you never finish your story and send it off to publishers.
I’m a lawyer by training, and I spent time editing one of my school’s legal journals. My editorial mind has had years of training, while I have only begun exercising my creative mind. Right now, my editorial mind is a bully, beating my creative mind into submission and silence. Part of the reason I started this site is to strengthen my creative mind–get it used to creating new ideas on a variety of topics on a daily basis. But how else can I help tilt the scales in its favor?
Many sites offer various tips like pretending it’s a journal meant only for my eyes (but my editorial mind uses my eyes!), writing faster as a goal instead of focusing on word counts (doable, but difficult, considering that my typing is already pretty crummy to begin with), distracting that side of your brain by playing chess online while writing (but the internet is likely to distract the rest of my mind as well), or Capitalizing every Other word You type so that your editor pays attention to that rule instead of every other rule (also doable, and amusing, but this seems like it would involve a lot of work on the back-end).
I’m still trying to find solutions for this problem. I’m sure it will be something I’ll continue to struggle with for a long, long time. But so long as I get eventually get the words down on the paper, I’m happy. What tips and tricks do you use to silence your inner editor when necessary? Post comments below. I’d love to hear your advice.