5 Ways to Make Peace With Your Hostile Inner Editor


Did you know that your mind has both an Editor and a DJ?


If you were to take one day and live unedited and unscripted I daresay that you would not be a popular person. In most circles, you are expected to edit everything you say and everything you do.

Often, editing is a good thing because my traffic-mouth should not overlap with my work-mouth. But when is editing another way to push down your authentic self?

Have you noticed how every screen in your life has an editor? Right now, my home has 12 screens and only 4 people (that’s a 3 to 1 screen to human ratio!!). Every computer screen, ipod, iphone or tablet that you have reminds you whenever you make a mistake.

You may not think about it very much, but whether you like it or not, your life is constantly being edited.

Most of us have layers of internal editors who remind us daily that we are a fraud, an impostor, or not up to par.

Most of us have layers of internal editors who remind us daily that we are a fraud, an impostor, or not up to par. Your computer has done you a favor. The computer’s editor is not secretive, hidden or undermining. It is bold and upfront and gives you a multitude of choices about how you can respond.

Think about it this way, most of your day to day communication is grammatically incorrect and poorly contextualized. So how can we expect our written communications to be pristine and mistake free? A page that is free of mistakes is an empty page, a page void of the hard lessons earned through risk.

Your inner editor can a little bit of a kill joy, and sometimes downright hostile. So let me introduce you to your personal DJ. You may have forgotten about your DJ. He (or she) is the one who gives you crayons, lets you sing and dance and write and dream, make messes and break the rules.

The editor looks for exceptions, but your DJ knows life is lived in the exceptions and the messed up pages. An exceptional life welcomes risk, vulnerability, mistakes, experiments, art, mess and entrepreneurial thinking.

therapy-crayonsYour editor may love the colored correction lines, but your DJ uses the colored correction lines like crayons, making something cool out of messy drafts or pilot projects gone sideways. The DJ knows that today’s leftovers are tomorrow’s energy.

Teaching your DJ and your Editor to get along

Teenagers hate rules and dream of being free from all expectations. And then they go to school. Forget the squiggly correction line… at school, mistakes are enforced with sledgehammer editing. For many of us, this is the time that the DJ goes silent.

Today’s leftovers can become tomorrow’s energy.

One of the gifts of maturity is learning that your editor can have some important things to say. It took me some time to learn this: Feedback can change your life if you let it. Accepting some editing is healthy. Remember that your editor may seem like an unhealthy voice, but he (or she) is in place to keep you safe. You needed your editor at one time in your life, so they are used to giving you direction. Rather than pushing them away, maybe it’s time to make peace with your inner editor?

Here are 5 ways you make peace with your inner editor

1.Remember that your editor is both corrector and protector. The editor is like a bouncer, prone to kick down the door in order to show a little muscle. Your editor is designed to protect you from harm, to set limits so that you stay safe. The cool thing is that your editor settles down when they know that we are listening.

I sometimes do a “Mind Dump” where I take one page from my journal and write down everything on my mind. Try writing on one page everything your editor is trying to protect you from. Giving yourself permission to write or say everything on your mind can set you free.

2.Let the DJ have the first draft. This one can be difficult because your tendency may be to immediately jump into editing. Creating and editing are two separate mindsets. Remember that when you dream, you dream in color and that dreams are always messy.

Something practical you can do is pick a day of the week and wear what you want (Fun Friday’s). Wear something that you love, even if it is outlandish. Take a coffee break where you go to your office or your bedroom and say whatever-the-hell is on your mind. Make sure your door is closed because being un-edited can sound scary to some people. This is why we have to work at it, people expect you to be edited all of the time. 

3.Pick an hour to create. This one is not mine; I credit Todd Henry, of the Accidental Creative. He recommends picking an hour a week to create without a purpose: Write whatever is in your mind, draw, garden, create a new recipe or write lyrics to a song. The point is to turn the editor off and let the DJ flow. You may want to invest an hour two or three times each week, or every day if you can manage it. The point is to choose a time where you allow the editor to fall silent and let the DJ take the house.

4.Meditate. This is one of the best tools that I have to silence the editor. When we meditate or pray, we accept that the editor has something to say. We notice what the editor says and go back to listening, breathing, and knowing that we are valued.

5.Set limits with your editor. Listening to your editor does not mean letting them boss you around. It means that you will respect them if they respect you. If your inner editor screams at you, set limits by replacing the oppressive thought, practicing gratitude or talking to someone you trust. You may also need to have a conversation with people in your life who feel they can edit you whenever they want. Thank them for their “fine tuning” but remind them that you need to express yourself. People who love you will get it.

Edit and credit are identical, except for two letters, but the difference can change your life. Today, take some time to give yourself some credit and let your DJ have the house.

If you like this piece, you will love my piece on Remix Your Life at the Good Men Project.

Keep it Real

This post has been adapted from an earlier version.

Photos by Michael Cote and smswaby

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