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Handling Your Inner Editor

Don't let your inner editor get in the way of your songwriting... you block yourself when you try to write and edit ideas at the same time.!
Handling Your Inner Editor to Write and Finish Your Songs

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Ever get stuck writing your songs?

You can’t finish a sentence or line 

Nothing fits right, can’t find the rhyme.

Got no rhythm, got no flow

Stuck on a lyric, can’t find the note….

It used to get me all the time!

Often it starts subtly, with:

No, I don’t like that 

No, that’s lame

No, it’s stupid

And turns into:

No = frustration

No = no where

No = no song

You feel stuck and annoyed, like you’re going nowhere fast…

It’s Your Inner Editor…

The little voice in your head that tells you right from wrong.

Wait, no the other voice that tells you write from don’t write.

Your inner editor judges your songwriting ideas, it sounds like:

  • “Is this the best way to say it?”
  • “Is the melody interesting?”
  • “Does this chord progression sound cool?”
  • “Is this the riff, or should I keep working on it?”

You need your inner editor to help guide your songwriting decisions.

Don’t let your inner editor bite you!

Handling Your Inner Editor to Write and Finish Your Songs

Inner Editor Interference

Editing is important. It’s how you take a good idea and improve it, how you take a good song and make it a great song. 

Editing becomes a problem when it becomes overactive. You can suffer a Songwriting Slow Down where your songwriting grinds to a halt.

My worst case of it lasted for a month. I couldn’t write anything… I’d negatively criticise an idea before I’d finished writing it down. I went from crossing out ideas as fast as I wrote them, to stopping myself in mid-thought, to staring at a blank page….

I solved this when I realized writing and editing are two different phases of songwriting (learn about all Five phases of songwriting).

The easiest solution is to brainstorm first (write songwriting ideas without judgement) and then edit later.

Grey cat ignoring the camera "I'm not ignoring you, I only like songs about cats"

Why Your Inner Editor Is Overreacting

There are a few reasons why your inner editor is overactive, including:

  1. You’re editing too soon in your songwriting process
  2. Fear of writing bad songs, and 
  3. Fear of negative criticism

The best solution is to brainstorm songwriting ideas and then edit them later. You spill your thoughts on paper and then edit and manipulate them into lines of lyrics.

If you’re second guessing yourself because you’re thinking about how listeners will react to your songs (this is actually fear disguised as self-criticism) try writing a bad song on purpose. It’s actually fun to see how fast you can write a crappy song… here’s a short song I wrote in 7 1/2 minutes.

Fear Increases Because No’s Are Sticky

If you get seven compliments and one criticism….

Which one do you think about and worry over? 

Do you sit still and replay the compliments over and over?

Unfortunately, it’s the negative comment that sticks in your head. It could be an offhand comment from a friend or a random troll but it’s hits you and swirls around, damaging your psyche!

Your Inner Editor is “critically” important… but only while you’re editing!

Otherwise you’re interrupting the writing flow, when ideas are flying, images are captured in words, and emotions erupt from you so you channel them into your writing.

Your editor becomes dangerous while you’re songwriting, especially brainstorming and generating ideas, because it’s too busy talking while you’re trying to create!

Keep your songs on target, looking over the sights of an old canon

Handling Your Inner Editor: Action Steps

Write, Play, Edit, Play, Repeat

Separate writing from editing, don’t write and edit at the same time.

Decide out loud whether you are writing or editing. 

You Can Rewrite 

You’re allowed (and should!) change anything if it improves your song. While you’re writing don’t get stuck on a word or lyric line with a long slow down until the editing phase. Use nonsense syllables or dashes to hold place in the song and write past a trouble spot.

Separate Yourself From Your Song

You write songs, you aren’t the song. Your song is a reflection of where you are as a songwriter and a person at this point in time. You’ll write many more songs. Your song is an instant in time… it’s not you. If your song isn’t as great as you want it to be, you can edit and change it later.

Go Outside 

Take a break, go for a walk, talk to people… do something different! 

Notice Your “No Statements” 

Pay attention to your self-talk, in your head, what you say outloud and what people say around you. Try to phrase negative statements as positive statements… turn “no’s” into “yeses”:

This lyric is lame = This lyric can be improved

When you hear no, the next step is to ask “why?” incessantly. Think like a toddler trying to understand why the sky is blue and where babies come from!

Ask yourself “why” but know the obvious first answer isn’t always the best answer… ask yourself why 

Asking “why is this lyric weak?” leads to solutions 

An unfinished song is an evaporating dream, dandelion with seeds blowing away

Finish the Song

Put it away for a week before deciding if you should:

  • File it, 
  • Rewrite it, or 
  • Demo the song

Leave a comment to help other songwriters…

How do you manage your inner editor?

More Articles to Help You Improve Your Songs and Your Songwriting Craft

Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff has taught, played and written music professionally for the last 25+ years.
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