Editing and the First Draft

writing and editing

Depending on where you fall in the following spectrum, you’ll have varying dispositions towards an editor :

Bad Writer + Big Ego = Editors are the Worst!

Bad Writer + Reasonable Ego = Editors are a necessary evil!

Good Writer + Humongous Ego = Editors are Butchers!

Good Writer + Sane Ego = My editor is the best!

[I’m really not in the mood for Photoshop so if anyone could do an infographic, I’d really appreciate it.]

Regardless of where you fall in that categorization, there is one editor you should hate with perfect hatred – The Internal Editor.

He is a vampire. And a black hole for creativity.

I used to listen to him all the time. I’d have a really great idea and I’d be writing, then he’d show up with his horn-rimmed glasses, peeking over my shoulder and pointing at my words, saying things like;


That’s not the right term to use.

Oh look, you didn’t spell creativity right.

Isn’t there a better way of using that word?

The point is, listening to that voice stops you from doing the most important thing when you’re writing – actually writing. It halts your train of thought and stops the outflow of ideas from your mind.

Editing makes use of the left part of your brain (the rational part). And if you’re being rational, it’s difficult to produce highly creative work (which comes from the right part).

I’ve been in this business for a while now and I can tell you, switching between both hemispheres of the brain stunts productivity. That’s why you’ve got to train yourself to stop listening to the internal editor.

There are over a hundred ways of curbing this spoilsport. You could try writing with a pen and paper while timing yourself; you could type as fast as you can on the keyboard while refusing to correct grammatical blunders; the list goes on. Figuring out how to outsmart him is part of the fun of writing.

Personally, I have two rituals.

First, I do some warm up writing. I write whatever comes to my mind, as fast as it comes to my mind. It doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t even have to be sensible. The aim is to get your right hemisphere pumping and your internal editor snoring. For example, the last exercise I did produced a 2-page rant about how much money I make from my job (don’t worry, no one’s going to see that).

Then, when I’m good and ready, I convince myself that whatever I write today is not going to be published; I’m just checking if the muse is home today. And then I begin.

Speed is of the essence when starting out. I keep telling myself, I’m not editing, I’m writing. I permit myself to have typos. Sometimes, I leave spaces in the prose just to make sure my fingers keep typing. Don’t stop for anything!

The goal is to keep your right brain active, making random associations, divergent and disruptive thinking etc. It’s quite simple once you get the hang of it.

And that’s how you get a first draft. In the history of writing, no first draft has ever been published (not even science publications). You get to go over your successive drafts in rational mode and edit edit edit.

So, the next time you seat down to write, remember to drive a stake through your internal editor’s heart. You’re welcome.

P.S. Don’t hesitate to share tips and rituals you use to curb your own internal editor.

8 thoughts on “Editing and the First Draft

  1. Makes me wish I had another lobe to use …nice one DI

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  3. Inspiring. I connect with this. Writing, especially the first thing that comes to ones mind sometimes appears to be senseless, just like this line I just wrote now. ‎​ℓ☺ℓ! I’m not even sure where I’m going with this, but I’m simply doing what you recommended; shutting out “the evil internal editor” and simply writing(typing). 😀 He’s useful though. Thanks bro!

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  6. Pingback: Improve Your Writing With George Orwell’s 6 Rules of Writing Well – Ibukun Taiwo

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