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November 19, 2012

Mentor advice: get past your inner editor.

By Becky Crawford
WGU Mentor, College of Business

At WGU, each student is assigned a personal faculty member to work with them as a mentor throughout their time at WGU. Additionally, each course has its own course instructors, subject-matter experts who are available to help students get through course material. Advice from your mentors is invaluable as you make your way through your online degree program. But we also want you to benefit from the wisdom of mentors not necessarily assigned to you, so occasionally, The Night Owl features advice from WGU mentors in colleges throughout the university.

Becky Crawford wgu editor

My name is Becky Crawford, and I’m a mentor in WGU’s online College of Business. I’m based in WGU’s Salt Lake City office. I’ve been with WGU for 7 ½ years. I love the opportunity I have to work with people pursuing an education. I consider myself a lifelong learner and I learn so much from my students. Thank you!

For this post, I wanted to share a strategy I use and discuss often with my students who are struggling to write. I call this strategy "Set Aside the Editor."

My students often share that they sit down to write their performance tasks and nothing comes. They call it "processing time" and explain that they are too much of a perfectionist to be able to write. I am very familiar with the blank stare at the computer, my fingers poised to write the forthcoming brilliance that is sure to come pouring out of me at any minute… (Still waiting…)

Too often I throw my hands up in frustration and walk away without writing a single word. I call this my inner editor. She certainly has a place in my ability to complete the assessment—just not when I am meant to be writing.

An exercise that has worked for me to write past my editor is to set a timer and allow myself the opportunity just to write. It doesn't matter what comes out and it doesn't matter if it looks right. All that matters is that I’m writing.

Writing helps me to unlock all of the fragments of information that have been swimming in my head. After the writing session, I put my editor hat back on and sift through what I wrote to organize and proceed with my task. It may take several sessions of uninterrupted writing to accomplish the end goal. Writing something always feels better to me than walking away frustrated and accomplishing nothing.

Here’s where to start:

  1. Set a timer. (I recommend 20 minutes of uninterrupted typing/writing. If you only have five minutes, start there.)

  2. Just write whatever wants to come out—song lyrics, grocery lists, "honey-dos," fragments of ideas you've had.

  3. Limit your pause time between key strokes to under two seconds and keep going until the timer goes off.

  4. Read back through your writing and pick out the segments that are appropriate to the tasks at hand.

It may seem silly, but you’d be surprised at how your inner editor also becomes the critic and will try to find an escape route from any of these steps. Stop staring and get writing! You can do it!

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