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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Taking the Wheel

by Lisa Bullard

Some days I really wish I was better at being a bad writer.

At the wheelHere’s why. Drafting, that early stage of writing when you are just trying to capture your ideas, usually works best if you can get words down as quickly as possible. But my inner editor is horribly critical. If I let that inner editor take the wheel while I’m drafting, it’s as if my car has hit a patch of ice: my wheels start spinning, I skid, and eventually I crash into a snow bank. So rather than writing badly, I often don’t write at all—to avoid that crash.

In a real-life skid, you have to react quickly; there’s no time to over-think. You correct the car’s trajectory based on instinct and practice. I advocate a lot of “behind-the-wheel” practice for your writing students, too, to counter tendencies towards their inner editors taking over too soon in the writing process. These inner editors too often have names such as “perfectionism” and “lack of confidence,” and they’re bad driving instructors.

I start each writing session with a “quick write.” (You can download one of mine here.) For this exercise, the only measure of student success is that they keep writing. Even better, forbid the use of erasers, since this is one time when spelling things correctly doesn’t count.

Throw the editors out of the room for these ten minutes—and that includes your own editorial voice as teacher, as well as the critics living inside each of your students. I’m a huge fan of a well-crafted sentence. Editing and revising DO have a huge role to play. But the writing ride is plenty long—and drafting must come before revising. Give students’ creativity some daily driving practice before you ask them to let their inner editors take the wheel.



4 Responses to Taking the Wheel

  1. rosecappelli April 23, 2015 at 8:24 am #

    I am so guilty of letting my inner editor take over! Thanks for the reminder and the suggestion!

    • Lisa Bullard April 23, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

      I still struggle with this all the time myself, Rose! I hope this helps you “reroute” your own tendencies!

  2. Cheri April 23, 2015 at 11:42 am #

    I completely agree. I teach writing online and often remind my students to put their inner editor aside when they are journaling or drafting.

  3. Lisa Bullard April 23, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

    Those inner editors are only useful if they wait their turn at the wheel, Cheri!

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