Today’s Micro Lesson comes from Joshua Mohr — author of Some Things that Meant the World to Me (Two Dollar Radio), one of Oprah Magazine’s Top 10 reads of 2009, as well as Termite Parade, an Editors’ Choice on the New York Times bestseller list, and All This Life (Soft Skull Press), which won the 2016 Northern California Book Award for Fiction.
Most writers I know have a little voice in their head called The Inner Editor.
This voice is, well, opinionated, which is a euphemism for “mean.” The Inner Editor is that gnawing voice telling us that our writing isn’t good enough, that we’ll never finish that essay or memoir, that we should probably just stop writing altogether and go back to clown college.
Over the years, I’ve learned some valuable tricks to silence my Inner Editor, and the most effective involves a timer.
Why? Well, the Inner Editor requires the author’s attention, and the timer prevents that because the writer is solely focused on generating new words.
So set the timer for ten minutes and write. JUST WRITE! Don’t correct spelling. Don’t worry about grammar. Don’t “police” what you’re putting down. These are minutes dedicated to exploring your story. There’s plenty of time to come back and clean things up later.
What we’re trying to accomplish is to make your imagination feel free. We don’t want you self-conscious while you’re writing. We want The Inner Editor to be muted. That way, we are liberated from anything that might hold us back.
It may sound counterintuitive — a ticking clock actually relaxing you??!! — but trust me, this really works.
Especially when we’re writing nonfiction (wait, my mom might read this!!??), which is so vulnerable in the first place, our Inner Editor can be ferocious. But use that timer, use the freedom of the ticking clock. Trust me: your prose will benefit from some time away from any bullies squatting in your head.
At the end of the day, that’s what we need: our imagination, relaxed, free, finding the right words to render our life experiences with beautiful precision.
This fall, Joshua Mohr is teaching Electric Nonfiction, a six-session workshop beginning Oct. 25 and open to writers of all levels.
Explore many tools typically associated with fiction writing — conflict, scene construction, plot — and forge art from your secret stash of memories and experiences, making the experience Electric for the audience.