Seithr the Kahn in the Doghouse

Inner Editors can be the bane of a first draft.

You’ve been plagued, I’m sure, by the creature of which I speak; it lurks on the blank page, ready to pounce on your first sentence, erasing it all before you’ve reached the period.

It demands that you write a better first sentence next time, a better first word, a better first draft. Or better yet, don’t even start—forget the whole thing. You’re hopeless and you know it.

If you don’t look out, this overzealous naysayer will stamp out the flame of your novel before you’ve struck flint—and if it can’t stop you writing in the first place, it will be in your ear the whole time, whispering—or screaming—that everything you write is crapcrapcrap.

And of course it’s crap. First drafts are always crap(Hemingway said as much in stronger language). That’s what editing is for.

So you need to keep your Inner Editor’s grimy influence off your first draft. There are only two ways I know of to do this:

One, ignore its comments.

Two, shut it up altogether.

You could, I suppose, do this by an act of will, but I’ve found a trick that helps me take command of my Inner Editor.

I call him Seithr the Kahn.

No, not the trick, my Inner Editor. That’s the trick; I gave him a gender, a name, a species(human), an appearance(muscular, square-jawed, and stubble-headed), and a personality(tough as formaldehyde and more brutally cold than The Long Winter).

And I gave him a voice. A loud, barking, growling voice. A drill-sergeant voice that tells me that I have “The imagination of a wet dish rag”, and calls my book things like “the brainchild of a jellyfish’s whore”.

And then I lock that man, and his filthy drill-sergeant mouth, out of the house. I lock him outside of the noveling part of my brain, outside of my creative space, and he doesn’t get to come in until the first draft is finished.

Sometimes I hear him pounding on the door and howling as I venture out onto some grievous writing limb. Sometimes I see his blue-stubbly face pressed up against the window, his breath forming clouds in the air as he glares furiously in at me, at my blossoming first draft.

And you know what? While it’s kind of creepy, it’s also laughable. More laughable, certainly, than some disembodied voice of shame.

And whenever any thoughts of disgust and self-doubt creep in, I give them stern looks and send them outside to play with Seithr the Kahn as he stews in a moody huff.

So tell me, who’s your Inner Editor? And once you’ve figured them out, and we’ve met them and said our hellos—banish them to the doghouse.

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