3.28.2011

Overthinking

Most of the time, my tendency to obsess about details actually benefits my writing. Artists of any sort, you'll understand: sometimes it's worth taking the extra time to fiddle with a word choice or play with the bass line or mix the right shade of blue.

Other times, it halts whatever I'm trying to accomplish. There comes a point where the words get so worked over that they lose their flow, and I either have to backtrack or start over.

Here, half-asleep on a Monday evening, I'm almost afraid to look at my query letter. It's close—it's so close to being ready. But I'm hanging on that point of overthinking, where I could destroy the entire thing with a touch.

Apart from destroying query letters, the occasional blog-post, and possibly entire novels—that hasn't happened to me yet, but I can imagine it all too well—overthinking makes simple decisions ridiculously difficult, causes a number of stress-related health problems that I won't sport with your tolerance by describing, and creates burnout. I have been there. And won't go again, if I can help it.

If I'd found the miracle solution to overthinking, I'd be wealthier. Or a more popular blogger, anyway. But so far, here are the best things I've found to counteract the madness:
  • Take a purely logical approach. List pros and cons of the decision, or ask a few questions about the problem.
  • Try a fresh start. Write the section over again, referencing the old version as needed.
  • Give it distance. Leave it alone till you've forgotten parts of the difficulty, or at least till you're more rested.
That's all I've got. Any of you have other ideas?

As for my query letter, it's had both distance and fresh starts these past months. Why I resort to logic last, well—that's a very different problem. Heh.

4 comments:

  1. It could help immensely to have another knowledgeable person look it over. Everyone--even an editor--needs a good editor. After so muchwork on a writing project, we aren't able to see it that well anymore. Is there a local writers' group whose members are actively working to be published and treading the same waters, therefore aware of all the pitfalls, who could make thoughtful suggestions? What about the books editor/journalist for your newspaper, who might have helpful author contacts willing to read it? Or a helpful professor at Western?Just some thoughts....
    --Arabella

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  2. Thanks, Arabella! As for my query letter, it's been looked over by my writers' group and my critique partner (Mr. Pond) and his brother--I just keep obsessing about the details. :) But you're absolutely right: a fresh set of eyes with the right knowledge and experience can really help a lot.

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  3. I can identify. I was just talking with a friend about this the other day -- my tendency to complicate things because I'm over-thinking can make everything from writing to cooking take a long time. I'm getting used to staying in the slow lane until I stop thinking too hard about something and I'm ready to act on it. :-)

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  4. Kiernan, I totally know what you mean--even about cooking. Life isn't so bad in the slow lane. At least, not most of the time. :)

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