We’re getting toward the back of the pack here with our look at Writer’s Digest’s 10 rules of writing. We’re all critical of our own work. Should memoir writers heed the caution of that inner critic or push “ignore”?
James Scott Bell, a writer and writing teacher, recommends following this rule. Otherwise, he predicts, “you’ll freeze up.” Take classes, study with a good teacher, practice a lot. But once you’re on course with the piece you’re writing, Bell advises, just “go with the flow and trust what you’ve learned….Write freely; let the characters live and breathe.” But that’s only while you’re writing. After you’ve completed a first draft, Bell says it’s time to take out the red pen and fix the problems. “But when you write, write,” he concludes. “That’s how you truly learn.”
In the opposite corner and taking the position of a realist is novelist John Smolens, who maintains that your “inner editor” is running all the time you’re writing whether you like it or not. With every word, you’re making a choice.
“It’s a matter of perception,” Smolen argues. “Your Inner Editor is there to help you, but too often you behave as though her sole purpose is to ruin your fun and make you sit up straight at the table. Instead, consider her a gentle, benevolent influence, the flashlight in hand as you wend your way down the dark path of each sentence.” Think of your inner critic, he says, as the Word Whisperer.
As usual, I see agreement here more than dissension. You want to give yourself license to write and not be bogged down with doubt at every sentence. But your editor is marching through your head to some degree anyway. I backspace constantly to change a word or a sentence, but I still get a good momentum going. I don’t think it has to be one or the other. Your eye becomes sharper as you review your first draft. I think the hard part is finalizing. Eventually, you do have to silence that inner critic or you’ll never finish a “last” draft!