Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Inner Editor's Monologue

Dear Liz,

We need to talk. I don’t appreciate what you did to me this November, the way you locked me up in the basement of your mind and shoved socks in my mouth to stifle my criticisms. For thirty days, you spent your time lollygagging and procrastinating and pretending to write worthwhile stuff. On and on and on it went. But while you drank your coffee and ate your chocolate and thought your happy noveling thoughts, I lay there in that dark corner of your memory, brooding as the taste of footwear filled my mouth with the cottony reminder that we are very different, you and I. As you pounded away at the keys, writing painful prose, I rocked myself and recited Tennyson in hopes of sparing my sanity. Whether or not I succeeded is still a valid question. So thank you, for that.

All December you avoided your novel, letting it ruminate as you sang Christmas carols, wrapped Christmas presents, and baked Christmas pies. But while you were busy counting down the days, I was channeling Houdini. For a while, I may have been the Count of Monte Cristo, imprisoned for ages on an island, worn down to a mere shadow of myself. But I’m back now. Be afraid.

January 1st was the key that finally opened the lock of my confinement. As you sat in the living room, eating cake and watching Doctor Who, I crept in and joined you on the couch, unnoticed. Perhaps you cherished notions of escaping your writerly fate, of penning a rough draft and then leaving it to rot while moving on with your life. I’m sorry to say, it will never be as easy as all that. I am your curse—I am your ghost. I will follow you to the ends of the earth, the voice of the many books you have abandoned. Unlike your conscience, I will never let up.

Let me tell you something vital. I bet you thought wandering into the badlands of your rough draft, if you ever did choose to return of your own accord, would be as delightful as strolling down the Yellow Brick Road en route to Oz. But honey, the only walk you’ll be taking is into Mordor, and it will be just you and me and the Precious (otherwise known as your manuscript). You may go crazy; in fact, I’m counting on it. Art, by necessity, mandates blood, sweat, and tears. So does perfection. And you are so very far from either right now.

Style, you argue. Style is a matter of taste and perspective. Everyone has their own style. George Bernard Shaw and Leo Tolstoy disliked Shakespeare. I’m sorry you cherish these childish notions. It will only make this more difficult for you in the long run. From now on, MY style is law. Hemmingway might like that despairing passage over there, but I am not Hemmingway, so in the bin it goes. Poe might have been proud of that dramatic moment, but I feel very differently, and you’ll trash it if you know what’s good for you. Write with the rhythm of Ray Bradbury—then we can talk about style. I hope you see how this is going to work. If you’re having second thoughts, I’m sorry; it’s a little too late for those. The doubters warned you, didn’t they, before you started all this nonsense? Of course they did. It’s not my fault you ignored them.

You’re locked in forever, and you’ll do as I say. See, I let you have your fun, traipsing through November without a care in the world, heaping up work for me. Now it’s my turn. Now it’s my chanced to be unleashed, and unlike you, I am merciless. I do not spare sentences for their beauty or scenes for their potential. I do not see promise; I see words. And if I do not see good words, I hit delete. If your beautiful darling doesn’t add one jot to the plot, then the plot won’t miss your beautiful darling if I cut her lifeline and snip her string of words from the page. You’ll feel better, in time, I promise you. How can I say that? Because I know. This is the part you always forget, no matter how many forays you’ve made into the stormy waters of my territory, be it with essay, blog, or book in tow. But I always remember.

Once upon a time, we used to be friends. For a while there, not a day went by when we weren’t spending every spare moment you could dredge up counting rows of letters and marveling at how the pieces fell into place with gentle tweaking. We lay on the grassy lawn of your consciousness and studied the clouds and the stars, weaving stories out of thin air, delighting in the mayhem of the axe and the precision of the scalpel in refining words into wonder. We were more than a team; beyond the cliché, we truly were two halves of the same soul.

What happened? After all those late nights when I fed you ideas till your fingers caught fire trying to keep up, I expected to make an impression…somehow. When you vowed to live like this for the rest of your life, I assumed you meant to include me. But summer came and stole your novel from you and thrust you into work and reality. You came back slimmer and tanner and bouncier, but you were still you. As soon as you could, you rushed back to the computer screen, bursting with lively plans to finish the project we had started together, you and I. And we did. We finished.

Then I slipped from your mind altogether, like a Post-It® note without its stick. And I was crushed. What did I do to make you hate me?

When did I become your enemy?

Listen. I know relations between us have been strained. Maybe I brought that on myself. Maybe I was too harsh in my search for brilliance, and maybe I trampled you on the way to perfection. Honestly, I don’t know what happened, and I don’t know how to fix it. But can we call a truce, even if it lasts no longer than the Treaty of Versailles? Can we lay aside our differences and work together? At least once more, can we make it work?

Your hands are shaking—your trembling fingers flutter through the pages of a book—your book. Of course…you’ve been reading your rough draft on the sly, dragging yourself deeper and deeper into discouragement; you can’t face the jarring horrors without me. Please let me help you.  


Your Inner Editor


  1. Your Inner Editor is so demanding. :O I love the way you've phrased this letter, though, and it's awesome that you're sharing this part of writing with us. It's fascinating! And, I think, I know what you mean. Editing is hard, not editing is hard, and there's a lot we have to live with in between.

    1. Yep, my inner editor is very harsh sometimes. And thanks! :) I'm glad you enjoyed the letter. I actually had another idea in mind for my post, but my inner editor was being such a brat, So I was just like "Fine then, you do it." (Yeah, that's totally what happened.)

  2. That was really cool! Your inner editor sounds a lot like mine, though I think mine is a bit harsher and sassier. :p

    I love the way you did this letter though. It's so interesting to see this from the perspective of someone whom writers normally view as "the bad guy."


    1. Thanks! :) I hope your inner editor isn't too much of a pain. Usually my inner editor and I can get along pretty well, but we have our moments. :P

      I'm glad you liked the perspective switch--I enjoyed putting myself in my "nemesis's" shoes. Granted I know my inner editor is really just another facet of my own psyche, but I think this post helped me to better understand my own struggles with writing.

      Thanks for commenting! :)