Creative Brain Versus Editing Brain

Brain full of ideas drawn on a chalkboard

One of the biggest causes of writer’s block is getting the editing brain involved when the creative brain should be working. That happens when the editorial and creative departments of your brain mingle. If you don’t shut off your editing brain while you’re writing, it will strangle you.

The Deep Work Habit

Like any good habit, it takes time to develop the ability to stay in creative brain. In other arenas, this can be called deep work. It’s where we immerse ourselves in the storyworld we have created. Our characters come alive, the scenes spool out in front of us, and we feel like we are merely transcriptionists to what is playing out before our very eyes.

We live in a society that values reachability and instant response. And this is a great way to kill creativity. Turn off notifications on your computer. Silence your phone. Set a time rfor 25 or 55 minutes and don’t look at email, texts, social media or anything else until your time is up. Soon your brain will get used to this and fall into the rhythm when you go into deep mode. But it takes awhile to develop the habit.


Prewriting is one of the best ways to beat writer’s block and to ensure that your scene has all of the great components it needs before you even start writing it. It’s also a way to write more quickly, because when you know what a scene is going to be about, it’s easier to see it play out in your head.

Here’s how it works. Based on your plot and what’s gone on before, decide what kind of scene you are writing. Do you need a goal/conflict/disaster? Or a reaction/dilmma/decision? Jot down some notes of what those components could be. Your previous scene should feed you your starting point for this.

Who’s going to be in the scene? Who’s the POV character? What does she want? Where is the scene set? These don’t have to be perfect or set in stone. You’re just looking for a starting point. The brain freezes up when it has unlimited options. Narrow some of those down and let the creativity flow.

Pre-writing lets the editorial department of your brain do its planning. But then it needs to leave. Write the scene without analyzing it. Just create. And when you’re done, go back and analyze it to see if it meets the flow and structure that it needs to. But don’t think about that while you are actually writing. Pre-writing should give you enough structure to free up the Creative department to write and to tell the Editorial department to shut up.

Write Now, Edit Later

Writing and editing are two different parts of the brain. You want to stay in Creative brain to keep the ideas flowing. Resist the urge to critique or change any actual writing. Jot things down now. Fix things later. Do research later.

I use Scrivener to write, and I love the Document Notes pane. I can pop notes in there about what I need to check out, what I’m uncertain about. It reassures my brain that the idea has been recorded and I won’t forget about it. And it allows me to stay in Creative mode.

When you are done Creating, put it aside and come back to it later. Now you can come back with the Editor brain and start applying structure and analyze and fix things. Don’t mix the two up or you will get yourself stuck with writer’s block. If you can write and edit on separate days, do it.

Your Goal

Your main goal is to write, turn off the internal editor, and know that the first draft will be crummy, and that’s okay. If the rules and structure are getting you down, toss them. Write your story and then go back and use the structure to figure out what’s missing and how to fix it. The more you write this way, the greater of a habit it will become and writer’s block will be simply a bad memory.

Now go write your story!

Jennifer and the other Pencildancers have released Worthy to Write: Blank Page Tying Your Stomach in Knots? 30 Prayers to Tackle That Fear. Jennifer’s latest books~ Protective Custody: A cop burned by love falls for a key witness in a crime implicating the town’s rich and powerful.  Coming Home A strong- willed young woman must discover her brother’s killer before she’s the next victim. The prequelBe Mine, is also available. Can a simple thank you note turn into something more? Get the first chapter of Coming Home and Protective Custody at www.JenniferVanderklipp.com



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