January 10, 2012

A Homicidal Cheerleader

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , at 9:56 PM by Dawne Webber

I thought my inner editor might be on strike after I wrote that she was a “monster” in my previous post.  I knew she was still around when she let me know she was annoyed by my first choice of a title for this post.

“I’m not a ‘psychotic cheerleader’,” she told me.

OK, maybe calling her a psychotic cheerleader was a bit dramatic. Then I recalled the quote that has become the mantra of many writers:

“…kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
(Stephen King, Arthur Quiller-Couch, William Faulkner—take your pick)

Stephen King, William Faulkner, Arthur Quiller-Couch

Kill your darlings

Of course, “your darlings” are those things you’ve written that you love or you are immensely proud of, but they’re unnecessary baggage weighing down the story you’re telling. And who gets to kill these darlings? The inner editor, of course.  I realized that my inner editor wasn’t a psychotic cheerleader. She was a homicidal cheerleader. And the darlings she wanted to kill weren’t always mine.

I got my first inkling of her problem when I read Anita Grace Howard’s post about “silencing your internal editor”. I knew my editor had become my cheerleader; she was very proud of our efforts. I also knew that she’d become critical of other’s writing, the way a proud, doting mother is critical of other people’s children.

But it wasn’t until I read a children’s mystery novel with my daughter that I became aware of  my editor’s homicidal tendencies. My editor was a seething after the first page. She tried to keep her mutterings to herself; we didn’t want to influence D³.

I knew my editor was out of control when she sliced and diced Hemingway. And her problem was affecting me. How would I ever enjoy reading again? How could I ever let anyone read anything I’ve written, knowing their editor was slicing and dicing me?

I read Anita’s post again and take heart, deciding to follow her advice and let myself “get lost in the story”. I just make sure my editor naps during reading time. Anita’s advice works, and I enjoy reading again. And my inner editor loses some of her edginess thanks to the extra sleep.

I think things are back to normal. My editor indulges in an occasional outburst when I read something written by someone else, but for the most part she’s very docile. That is, until I open a certain book and begin to read. Then my editor cannot be silenced. When the god-like, angelic, hunky antagonist speaks in a musical voice she loses her mind. I ought to close the book so I can chase down my inner editor and take the ax from her determined grip before she kills someone.

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January 3, 2012

Avoiding the Warden

Posted in Writing tagged , , , , , , at 7:11 PM by Dawne Webber

I’ve mentioned my muse many times. I respect my muse but I’m also intimidated by her; I suck up to her as much as possible. After reading virtualDavis’s comment I realize that in the process of kissing up to the muse, I’ve neglected mentioning my other writing collaborator. virtualDavis refers to this entity as a warden; I refer to mine as an editor, although warden is also fitting.

Have I failed to mention her because I’m avoiding her and her warden-like tendencies? Or is it because editors are overworked, underpaid and just don’t get the same attention as muses? The editor isn’t as awe-inspiring as the muse, but she’s just as important.

Robert Redford warden Brubaker

If my editor/warden looked like Robert Redford, I’d spend a lot more time with him.

I was first introduced to my editor in my sophomore year of high school in my Advanced Comp. class. I was intimidated by the upperclassmen that made up the class and by the teacher too. They all seemed much more literary than I. I kept my mouth shut, my ears open and did the work.

Then we got an interesting assignment. We were told that each of us had an inner editor that was naturally adversarial. This editor hampered and tampered with our writing by getting us to focus more on the reader’s reaction and less on the actual content. These editors also filled us with such paranoia about the mechanics of writing we were paralyzed to true creative writing.

The assignment consisted of three parts. The first was to describe your inner editor, physically and mentally. The second  was to spend one hour writing everything that came to your mind without editing any of it. The last part consisted of re-imagining your internal editor as a friend not an adversary.

I really got into this assignment. It’s one memory of high school that hasn’t faded into a huge fuzzy blob in my mind (Thank you Lord that the rest has). I found it easy to visualize my adversarial editor. In a nutshell, she was a tall blond in a tweed suit, hair pulled severely back into a knot. She sat at an immaculate desk waiting to trounce me. And trounce me she did. I just hadn’t realized it before.


My friends and I could put these guys to shame.

The second part of the assignment was slightly more intriguing. Imagine me, an adolescent angst ridden girl who could look out her window and see the house of her unrequited love (who was probably out with that FRESHMAN). Add to that the fact that my friends and I swore like sailors when out of earshot of parents or teachers. Then throw in my inclination to snarkiness (even if the word snarky wasn’t yet in existence). That editor of mine never had a chance. As soon as I wrote the first f***, she was forgotten and I was free. This was in the days of long hand and I sat on my bed and wrote non-stop for an hour. The thought of my teacher reading it made me smile. He didn’t know what he was in for.

The third part, re-imagining your editor, was  a turning point for me. I remember my editor’s hair was loose and she wore jeans. And we became friends. She wasn’t a warden anymore; she was a collaborator.

My teacher was astonished by my paper. I’m sure he’d never noticed me before I gave him the very detailed inner-workings of my mind. I got an A+ and a “Why are you hiding your light under a bushel?” in the margin. He even talked to me about it after class.  Since then, my editor has become my cheerleader. We’re on the same side.

But I’ve realized recently that in re-creating my editor, I’ve created a monster…


I’ve created a monster…


Disclaimer: There may be an ad/video visible below or above. I’m not sure because they are invisible from my account, but I know they appear to my readers with annoying frequency. I do not receive monetary compensation for the ad nor do I endorse it.  


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