build creative confidence

Day 18 – Making friends with your Inner Editor

I am sharing another guest post with you today from writer Andy Shackloth. If you missed his first post on Ten Quirky Thoughts, read it here. I asked Andy to talk about working with our inner critic as he had several great articles related to this topic on his website.  This post will be part one of a three part series on working with your inner critic or inner editor as Andy describes below.

How to find accord with your Inner Editor

The intention of this post is to give you some ideas about exerting some control over your inner editor.

However, before I can truly do that I first need to explain a little neuroscience. Don’t worry, it won’t be heavy going.

Have you come across the following terms?

  • Conscious and sub-conscious
  • Logical and creative
  • Self and inner creative
  • Self and inner child
  • Left brained and right brained
  • Logical-mind and creative-mind
  • Task mind and artistic mind
  • Sign mind and design mind
  • Rational self and emotional self

All of these are attempts to label the duality of the human mind.

It is scientifically accepted that there exists a duality of thinking between the left and right halves of the human brain. The left half is principally concerned with the serial processing of language, logic, tasks, time, order and rules. It is our left half which forms our logical-mind. The other half, our right half, is principally concerned with processing space, form, colour, sensation, emotion and memory, and it is our right half which forms our creative-mind.

Who is in control – you or your inner editor?

Depending on what we are doing at any one time, either the logical or the creative mind steers our thoughts and is said to be dominant. The other mind type then assists the dominant mind, and is said to be sub-dominant. The reason it is not being submissive is because that second mind type is still very much in total control of its own mental processes but it has ‘stepped aside’ for now. An important point to realise is that no conflict, no battle, exists between the two minds. They are effectively siblings, best buddies, and depending on whose skills are currently needed, they willingly pass the helm back and forth between them.

It is when your creative-mind is dominant, when the logical-mind has retired away from the current action, that you enter the creative “zone”; the place where you can “see” where you are going, when what you are working on “feels” right and when time simply has no consequence.

As long as you remain working in this artistic zone, using forms, space, sounds, colours and imagination, your creative-mind can remain dominant; you can make art, you can fly! However, start breaking any rules, start trying to figure out what’s wrong and the logical-mind will reassert its dominance in an instant. Even someone asking you if you want a cup of coffee can cause a process of logical decision. The need to make that decision then casts your creative-mind aside and pulls the logical-mind to the helm to deal with it. However, just suppose that instead the coffee just appeared. Now, because no decision is required, the creative-self would remain dominant.

Your Inner Editor is no more than your logical-mind trying to make decisions and impose rules on your behalf. For instance, my inner editor would leap up in arms if it noticed me starting a sentence with a conjunction.

Working with the Inner Editor

Our problem comes when the Inner Editor rightly says something should be different, when it states that the rules actually say otherwise. As soon as you start considering the point, the new logical process will push the creative-mind into the background. Unfortunately, once the Inner Editor is bristling, it will take a while to coax your creative-mind out again.

Fortunately, we do have some aces up-our-sleeves that will help keep our creative-mind uppermost, whilst placating a bristling and aggrieved logical-mind. These are:

  • Negotiate
  • Trust
  • Distraction
  • Let us look at these a little closer.

Negotiate

Think of the logical-mind as a rule driven person; the original “job’s-worth”; somebody who prefers grammar, time slots, task lists, organising, structures and fixed agreements. All of which are variants of applying rules. You may find it surprising, but this tendency to follow procedure opens your logical-mind up to negotiation and importantly, to a desire to stick to agreements.

The way we negotiate is by promising our Inner Editor that whichever issue currently needs fixing, we guarantee to return to it later and sort it out.

Then, to firm up the agreement, we enter into a contract with our editor; a contract formed by marking the issue so that it cannot be forgotten, and in a way that makes it is easy to find and fix later on.

For writers, I suggest using the hash mark “#” adjacent to the text. This mark then becomes a promissory note that the logical-mind can accept.

For an artist, the mark could be a quick pencil sketch of a difficult section in your art journal. This sketch then forms the promise to separately practice that section at a later time.

In this way we are never fighting against our Inner Editor, instead we are cutting a deal with it. We are promising to come back later and fix all our issues at a time when we are thinking with the appropriate mental process. Allowing it to relax and retire, whilst you continue to work with your creative-mind.

Trust

Of course, your Inner Editor is as intelligent as you are. These promissory notes have to be honoured in order to earn its trust, so be warned, you can no more fool it than you can fool yourself. If you don’t honour your promises, then the next time your Inner Editor will be wise to you, it will have learned not to trust you and it will refuse to play along. However, once trust has been established it becomes the easiest thing to drop a little marker at an issue and breeze along in the creative flow.

Distraction

With awareness of the interplay occurring between your two states of mind, you can sometimes distract an awakening logical-mind from its nascent purpose by providing a flood of creative-mind thoughts. To do this, deliberately move your thoughts over to those preferred by the creative-mind.

Visualise the spaces, forms or colours in your work. Dip into the associated sensations, textures, scents and tastes. Play with emotions or relationships, allowing them to wash over you, engulf you and enthral you. Mentally stroll into that creative mindscape and leave your editor dazed and distracted at the door.

Correspondingly, it won’t hurt if at the same time you attempt to remove any stimuli for logical thought.

  • No language, so turn the radio or TV off.
  • No time pressures, so move clocks and calendars out of sight.
  • Nothing that brings your logical-mind forward is allowed; simply move them out of sight and say “I’ll deal with you later, when I’m in the right frame of mind for you.”

I hope you find these ideas useful and I would love to hear of your experiences with working with your inner creative and inner editor. Hint: you can flood the comments area with them; I am sure that Dr. Riordan won’t mind.

If you would like to read more about using the hash mark when writing, there is a more detailed post atHow to keep writing (when your inner editor screams)” on my blog.

About Andy Shackcloth

inner editorAndy Shackcloth lives in Italy and promotes Journaling for Creativity via his personal blog “Shack’s Comings and Goings”, dedicated Facebook page and Twitter feeds. He stumbled upon journaling after writing tutors insisted that it would be a good thing for him to do. Journaling and his subsequent research into journaling, lead to an epiphany that changed his view of the world and the direction of his writing.