How to Kick Your Inner Editor to the Curb Until You Finish Your Draft

Your inner editor can be your best writing ally, keeping your ego in check and your writing from becoming a bloated, sweaty mess. But sometimes, you’ve got to lay down the law. Is compulsive editing stopping you from finishing a first draft, or hell, finishing anything?

If so, check out this advice, from three experienced writers, on how they banish the editor and finish their work, before going back in with a red pen. 

Don’t Burn Daylight

From blogger and writer Tarissa Helms (find her at

What works best for me is to write first thing in the morning and just write, as quickly as I can, pouring out all the ideas that have been brewing in my head during the night. For some reason, the later and later it gets in the day, the harder and harder I get on myself.

In the middle of the afternoon is the worst time. I start getting tired and cranky and super picky about my writing at this time of day. So, it’s a good time of day for editing. I always laugh to look back at my writing from the morning and see how much crazy punctuation I scattered about during my writing frenzy.


Put Down All the Possibilities

Author and owner of Proof Positive editing service Christie Stratos (find her at or @ChristieStratos) says:

Self-editing is a very common problem and can take some serious discipline and active attention to keep yourself from continuing the habit. My best suggestion is to write down EVERYTHING that comes to you in that moment. A good example of this is if you can’t decide on word choice and it’s bothering you and therefore keeping you from continuing your writing. Instead of trying to choose the perfect word right then, write down all the possible words in your head, separated by slashes, perhaps make the words bold or put them in parentheses so you can find them later. Then you can move on without fear of forgetting all the options you have. You can do this with word choice, sentence phrasing, and even entire paragraphs you’re not sure you’d like to include in the final product.


Get Radical

Here’s what consistently interrupts my writing train of thought: Spell Check. I can’t stand having those squiggly red lines under my text. I find it almost more embarrassing than the typo itself, and I’m compelled to break off my train of thought, go back, retype, and try to pick up where I left off. What I lose is momentum, and eventually, if I correct enough mistakes, I roll to a stop.

Know what I did? I got radical. I turned off Spell Check. And you can, too!


What are your methods for shutting down your inner editor? Share them in the comments!

  • Tarissa Helms

    Turn off, spell check?!! Now, you’ve gone too far. 😉 I’m kidding, of course, it’s a great idea. Anything that interferes with the ability to get words out on paper interferes with the bottom line — a completed project! Thanks so much for including me in this post. It turned out great!

    • Shan

      Tarissa, thanks for checking it out! I thought your advice was really great. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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  • Winnie

    For me being ruthless is turning off the Internet, and writing. (i’m addicted to reading all the excellent free advice; that’s my ‘research’.)
    I’ve bookmarked your site. Internet addicts like me need your advice.

  • Shauna Maguire

    I really struggle with self editing although I’m slowly getting better! The idea of using multiple words when you just can’t find the right one is excellent – I’ll be putting that one into use! Otherwise my strategy is to start with a very loose structure and just focus on getting the ideas down, once that’s done I can focus on making it sparkle 🙂

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  • Aaron Arm

    I don’t know. I tend to support the idea that everyone has a different writing process, and for some, self-editing is the only way to write confidently. I tend to scrutinize over every word and syntactical decision, and while it can certainly slow down the process, I don’t think I’d be able to turn that inner-critic off – not, at least, without totally despising what spills onto the page. I do understand, though, that it’s helpful for people to tweak their process and try different techniques. This can definitely be helpful for those whose self-editing does more harm than good in the grand scheme of things.

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