Putting my trust in Future Me

Like many, many people, I have an inner editor problem. I never finish 90% of what I start because instead of thinking about what comes next, I just keep thinking about how what I’ve already written can be made better. It’s all well and good to say that you need to free write or do sprints or drink (the linked post jokes about imbibing as a strategy, but it’s one of the few that actually helps, in my experience) or whatever, but 1) it’s a lot harder to actually do it and 2) those are all short term strategies. It’s exhausting to have to overcome the fucker every single time I try to write. What I need is a mindset change.

The other day I was wittering over some paragraph, trying to make it perfect, when I realized that I was acting like if I didn’t get it right now, I never would.

I think this impulse to edit in the moment instead of plowing ahead is, to some degree, motivated by worry that I won’t catch and fix what’s wrong with it when I go through on my next pass. But Future Me is actually a pretty good reader and editor — she’ll figure it out. So when I get stalled on a sentence that doesn’t flow right, or a scene that doesn’t quite tie into the theme of the story, or even a premise that I’m not sure is working anymore, I need to remind myself that fixing that stuff isn’t my job. It’s Future Me’s job, and she can handle it. I need to leave that job to her so that I can get on with doing mine.

3 thoughts on “Putting my trust in Future Me

  1. Thank you for the pingback! Also, I am still battling this problem, but some other things that have helped (namely, in helping me finish one novel I’d already started, and in getting 55k words to the beginning of another novel) is NaNoWriMo (I have three posts on this: “Failing NaNoWriMo”, “Why NaNoWriMo”, and “Recovering From NaNoWriMo”). And while it seems like a temporary fix to the old inner editor problem, it really gives you a new perspective on your habits and methods of production that stick with you. Also, I have a hard time getting in the zone because of this inner editor–and of course we know if we would just get in the zone the inner editor might shut up for once–but it has been suggested that if you create a routine for writing, you can trick your mind into being more inspired every time you sit down. Pick a specific place or time, or close the door, or put on classical music, or do it right before or after eating, or put on a certain item of clothing. Baseball players have rituals they do too that they steadfastly believe helps them play better games; whether that’s true or not, it can actually work for us writers like Pavlov and his bells! Also, I have another more serious post on imbibing to help with writing entitled “Writer’s Lot”. I’d be interested in hearing what you think.

    And yes, I couldn’t agree with you more on the source of the impulse.

    • Hi Ashley!

      I did NaNoWriMo once, in 2004, and won! God, it was amazing. Speaking of imbibing, doing NaNo felt literally intoxicating to me. For all the miles I’ve run in my life, I have NEVER had a runner’s high, but NaNo gave me a writer’s high.

      You’re probably right about coming up with a routine. I resist that for some reason, and I’m not sure why.

      • I do too, often. I have to force myself (and it’s usually during NaNo) to write at the same time for at least 30 minutes a night or in the morning. It is, of course, during NaNoWriMo that I get the most production and the most out of my writing. That month/event totally comes with a runner’s high!

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