Inner Gardener

So I can just write. I can just catch little things, regardless of state of finish or polish. The inner editor isn't allowed in my pocket notebooks.

Nate Dickson prompts such interesting questions about the “inner editor.”

But I wonder whether we should be thinking more about transforming our “inner editor” rather than whether we should allow her into our writing. In such a case I cannot help but think of Michel de Montaigne. Translator M.A. Screech mentions a peculiar characteristic of Montaigne's writing:

Montaigne's numerous quotations are seldom integrated grammatically into his sentences. However long they may be we are meant to read them as asides – mentally holding our breath.

Montaigne can be quite off the cuff in his essays, obliquely approaching topics with lengthy historical anecdotes and philosophical excerpts. What should be noted here is that these quirks stood after Montaigne revised his essays. Twenty years of editing and these awkward phrasings stood. Why? What was going on with Montaigne's “inner editor”?

That twenty year process was probably more akin to tending a garden – pruning, watering, planting. Those quotations were not a bug but a feature, outgrowths Montaigne saw too beautiful to remove. And so they stand, baffling M.A. Screech but reminding us that we can welcome the messiness of writing by transforming our “inner editor” into an “inner gardener.”

A gardener checks for connections and relationships. Sure, check for spelling and grammar, but one does not always have to mistake a trailing idea for a weed. Let it be and see what happens. You can always take it out later. And that's another thing – an editor might comb through a piece once or twice but a gardener frequently comes back, planting new thoughts along side the one's there and sometimes planting new seeds.

I wonder how to attune more to that “inner gardener” when writing on the web. Because more often than not the “inner editor” takes hold, killing thoughts before they form, preventing me from pulling the trigger. Strange how the “inner editor” can seem completely anachronistic to the web as a medium. I am not writing a PhD thesis or an article in The New Yorker. This is just a post that can be edited and linked indefinitely.

Why not treat it like part of an ever expanding garden?