Under the spell of Overthinking?
Snapshot of mental conversation:
Ok this way…
… But then, what about that way…
… I don’t know… that may not be best.
… Maybe I should develop it some more….
It can connect better… I don’t know if they’ll get it…
Ok, it can work this way…. and that... I don’t know…maybe not.
Whether it is that you think about a part of your writing too much or for too long, it is time to break the spell.
Any human with a decision to make (be it, menu-planning or the setting of strategic business goals), can find themselves caught in the mental web of Overthinking. Overthinking is triggered when in a problem-solving mode and a level of satisfaction is not reached.
But to imagine, that while you're in a problem-solving mode, you develop another problem!... Yes, the problem of Overthinking. And this becomes a problem (particularly for writers now) because it is actually preventing you from writing; becoming a limitation of progress, and that is a problem.
Known also in the business world as Analysis Paralysis, this bout of indecisiveness stymies actual progress and produces inaction. For writers, this inaction can mean a halt in writing for hours, days, weeks or months, and affect any level/stage of their writing (concept, plot, syntax level).
This frustration experienced when caught in the merry-go-round of overthinking usually is not due to a lack of idea, but rather when the thinker believes, for one reason or another, the idea in their head is not good enough.
Overthinking can come on because of these reasons:
Lack of confidence
Fear of rejection/disapproval, low ratings
So, we’re here to divulge our tried-and-true advice on ways you can break the spell of overthinking in your writing (and other areas of your life as well… hey, try it).
1. Work on the other parts of your writing that are flowing easily for you.
In writing, there's always the part that's sticky and frustrating. It's just not to the standard you want. Don't sweat it. Skip it and deal with other parts of your story that's not as difficult to translate unto paper. Return to your sticky part after a while. Who knows, when you return, you may have gained some perspective from writing other parts of the story, or your brain might just start clicking again with that part of your story.
2. Change your environment.
Go outside, take a walk down the street, go window shop through a mall, go visit family/a friend, take a hike. The change in environment eases up the brain from pursuing head-on, the area of your writing that is frustrating you. Who knows; inspiration may come from another environment- maybe someone you see on the street, the aura of hiking in nature or while walking through a close-to-empty shopping mall.
3. Take a Nap.
Ohh, the wonders that a good 20 minute nap does to the mind. But not all naps are equal: too short and you may end up waking up like you haven't slept in 34 hours; too long and you open your eyes feeling lethargic. Taking a nap is like pressing the refresh button for creativity and energy. 20 minutes will do to give your brain the jump start it needs without you craving for more sleep. But hey, a nap is not going to satisfy the need for full-on sleep. If you need sleep, do your brain a favor and make the time to sleep.
4. Stop comparing your work.
Some writers second-guess and overthink their content because they want it to have the same effects/results as a competitor. I find when it comes to overthinking and comparisons, there seems to be an unreasonable focus on the results gained by others and the writer lacks confidence in the uniqueness and quality of their own content. While comparison has its place in the competitive world, the results that your competitors may generate are a culmination of experiences and choices that are different from yours. Their journey is not your journey. Stay focused, hold your own positive outlook/vision and do produce your best.
5. Have your work edited or proofed by a professional Editor.
Are you a critical writer? Then get a critical Editor. A professional will pick up on any holes in your writing, correct errors, and provide valuable feedback. Why overthink on matters you can get editorial support on.
6. Wheel your mind in by working with a time-frame and sticking to it.
Krista Adams, in her book “Productivity for Writers” talks about defeating your inner critic and combating Overthinking by making the most of every minute. Set for yourself, a reasonable time to deal with your difficulty and deal with it. Now, knowing what is a reasonable time to set, means knowing yourself, your lifestyle, your level of writing, and the type of difficulty you're overthinking. Whether I'm giving myself 3 hours, a day or 1 week to deal with a matter I'm overthinking, once that time is through, my mind is made up (no matter what) and I move on. Try it.
7. Talk your thoughts through with someone else and make an objective decision.
Becky Kane, in her blog post, The Science of Analysis Paralysis…, writes,
“Having to present your deliberations to someone else forces you to synthesize the information you’ve been collecting in a clear, concise way (or at least more clear and concise than when it was all bouncing around in your own head). In addition, having outward validation of your ideas from someone [who’s] opinion you respect can be just what you need to overcome self-doubt and build the confidence to take action.”
And I completely agree with Becky. After the exercise of communicating your issue in a concise format, the feedback you receive can help you make a decision that can propel you to continue writing. Anything that can get you out of Overthinking and back to writing counts, so talk to someone.
8. Just Choose One.
Instead of rolling over in your head, the different methods/options/ideas for months on end, just choose one and run with it. The truth is, they may all be equally valid. So choose one and write.
9. Medium-term: Invest in training to grow in confidence as a writer.
Perhaps you can seek out a course that will address a weak writing area you know you struggle with. Boosting confidence as a writer through training can help you maneuver sections of your writing that cause you to pause too long (overthink).
10. Change your perspective
Instead of thinking of all the things that can go wrong, think on all the things that can go right! And go write! Yes, go write it down. Remember, there lies but yet opportunity in everything.
Ultimately, writing should be a liberating exercise.
Free yourself from your mind’s Overthinking grip, keep the big picture in mind, write like no one is reading, then hire an Editor.
Have a project you’re working on? Let us help you put your best work forward.