What is a mental editor?

Boat house by the sea at night time - illustrating an article about how the mental editor affects creative writing If you have visited this site before you’ve probably noticed that I mention the term ‘mental editor’ quite a bit.

The reason I mention it so often is because the mental editor is something that causes a lot of problems for new writers.

The mental editor is a writer’s term for the inner voice that speaks to us whenever we do something we find challenging or new.

Many of us find that as soon as we start to learn and explore a new skill a little voice in our head begins to speak.

I am not talking about the internal voice that reminds you add a comma, change a spelling or phrase something better.

That is a good thing and you can decide whether to do your corrections as you go along, or leave them until you’re finished.

Editing as you go works well for some writers but others find they lose their momentum if they stop to do corrections.

Conversely some writers find they can’t concentrate knowing they have left behind a spelling mistake.

Whatever you decide – that particular mental editor is easy enough to deal with.

That is not the mental editor that causes the problems.


The real problems come from a mental editor that expresses nothing but doubt and criticism.

Someone who takes up something new can experience this – not just writing – it could be art, car mechanics or tapestry.

However, it is probably true that writers probably suffer from this more than most.

Writers are continually mining their own brains for inspiration and ideas. This gives the mental editor opportunity to switch on.

A writer may hear an inner voice telling them that the idea they thought was great is actually rubbish.

Or that same voice may say yes, it’s a good idea but you’re not good enough to finish the project.

This kind of internal criticism can be so powerful that it can literally stop a writer in their tracks.


My theory on this is that it probably stems from the criticism you have had in the past.

Maybe a parent. or teacher told you that you were not good at writing. Or, maybe they just criticized your grammar without recognizing the creativity or originality in your work.

Maybe you are short on confidence. This could be for many reasons and only you can get to the bottom of this problem as it will probably stem from your personal past.

However, if you really want to write, you don’t have to start spending years exploring your past before you start.

You can write whether you are confident or not.

sea view seen through a window illustrating an article about how the mental editor affects creative writingHOW TO BEAT YOUR MENTAL EDITOR

There is only one thing you can do with a mental editor and that is to ignore it.

The more you ignore it and push on with your writing the more the negative inner voice will diminish – trust me, I know from personal experience it will.

Some people give their mental editors a name – something like Nigel, or Cedric and they literally tell it to shut up. Try it – if this works for you then that’s great.

If talking to yourself isn’t your thing that’s fine.

Just acknowledge the voice but firmly tell yourself it’s just your mind playing tricks.

Carry on with your writing.

Whatever your mental editor tells you – it cannot possibly know that your writing is not good enough and if you let it stop you – you won’t know either.

So ignore it and carry on.

Best of luck




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