Are you old enough to remember TV cartoons from the 1960s? If so (or if you're a 'toon fan), you may recall a miniature devil, complete with pitchfork, who sat on the shoulder of many main characters. This little devil whispered bad advice and spiteful ideas into the ears of other characters -- egging them on to do the wrong or rotten thing.

Thinking about this devil is another way to visualize what I like to call “the internal editor.” The internal editor is the little voice inside your head that’s desperate to correct your writing. You know, it wants to fix the spelling and grammar errors, find better words and improve your readability. Of course, these are all good things. But, alas, the internal editor also has a nasty side. He takes malicious glee in focusing on the negative -- particularly if it might stop you from writing. Don’t let that happen! Let me give you five extremely effective strategies for fighting back.

Bully him in return. When the devil starts telling you that you're a crummy writer, "yell" (silently, in your mind) "STOP!" Shake your head and shrug your shoulders. Wiggle your fingers. (And if, like me, you're a fan of the '50s musical, you could even consider humming a salutary chorus of "I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair...")

Negotiate. When the devil says your writing is boring tell him: "You may be right, but I don't have time to deal with this." If you're feeling generous, you might add: "I'll think about it later when I'm not so busy writing."

Agree with him. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to disarm people when you suddenly and unexpectedly agree with them? It takes the wind right out of their sails and they tend to become very silent. Say to your devil: "Yeah, you're probably right; I'm a crummy writer. But, you do know what? I'm going to finish this writing anyway." Then do it.

Argue with him. Start by deconstructing what the devil is telling you. Notice how so many of his comments are absolutes and over-generalizations: "You always write such boring introductions." Or, "Why don't you ever write anything pithy?" Do those comments make any sense at all? Can you honestly say that every single introduction you've ever written in your entire life, from kindergarten until today, has been boring? Do you know for absolute certain that the word "pithy" does not apply to a single sentence you've ever crafted? Of course not! The devil needs to generalize because the devil doesn't speak the truth. Call him on it.

Replace him. And this is the most fun step of all. Give your devil an alter ego -- a little white angel who sits on your other shoulder. (They did that in the cartoons, too, remember?) And for every nasty comment the devil makes, have your angel say the opposite. If the devil whispers: "You're a crummy writer," your angel should reply: "You're a BRILLIANT writer." Note: It doesn't matter whether you believe this is true. This is a battle of over-generalizations. Be bold!

Negative thoughts will not only hurt your writing; they'll also make writing slower and more painful. Don't let the devil get away with it. Fight back.