Kill the Editor on Your Shoulder

Tiffany Sanders, J.D. Law School Admissions Leave a Comment

photo_13485_20100308[1]Professional writers and those who aspire to be pros often speak of “the editor on my shoulder”. On first hearing, the editor on your shoulder might sound like a helpful being, someone who would help you tweak and hone your writing and make it better. Seasoned writers know better: the editor on your shoulder isn’t your friend. She doesn’t improve your work. She freezes you in your tracks.

A lot of law school applicants have editors on their shoulders, and those who aren’t experienced writers often don’t recognize that little demon for what she is. She’s your enemy, there to make sure you don’t get anything down on paper. Kick her off your shoulder, stomp on her, sweep her out the door and move on with your essays.

Write something down.

Will it be the right thing? Well written? What the admissions committee “wants to hear”? Spelled correctly?  

I don’t know. You don’t either–not until you write it down. And the more that editor on your shoulder has you holding things back, the less likely you are to find your groove and write the thing that’s going to be truly relevant.  

If you’re stopping and scratching things out, rewording, crumpling up papers and tossing them aside, spending minutes staring at a blank screen or piece of paper, you’re doing it wrong. You won’t hear me say that very often, because I believe strongly in finding what works for you and not trying to follow someone else’s recipe. But sitting and staring at a blank expanse until you come up with the perfect words is The Wrong Way. You can’t get to a successful personal statement from there.

The most important thing to remember when you start writing and brainstorming and tossing out fragments that may or may not become future essays is that YOU control access to that Word doc or sheet of paper. No one in the world is ever going to see it unless you offer it up, so there’s no risk in pouring out whatever comes to mind. If it sounds stupid, is too much truth, is badly written or otherwise sucks…change it. Crumple it up and toss it out. Delete it. But get it out there and look at it before you decide.

Graphic courtesy of Filomena Scalise via

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