I feel confident in saying that I no longer “overthink” when I write.
It took some time, a lot of practice, and a few skills being plugged into my brain like circuit boards, but I when I sit at my keyboard and start getting to work, I get to work.
It’s finding the time, that’s my biggest obstacle.
But I used to not be very good at it. In fact, I curse Old Robert (that’s me, maybe, 4? 5? years ago) who had way more time than I do now. I didn’t know it then, that my time would be sucked up so much by two 16 month old boys running around my house, eating my food, and spilling water everywhere, but it is. My time is limited so, in essence, my writing time is even more limited. There is no time to “overthink” and worry about what I’m doing. There is only a matter of getting that work DONE.
However, there are some techniques that I use to help me out. In fact, I think I used every single one of these to help me craft this blog post today.
(Now, remember, as with all writing advice, your mileage may vary and what works for me may not work for you. There’s some other fantastic sites out there with writing advice that might pique your interest. One I’ll recommend right now is Jane Friedman’s site, which always has fantastic entries about how to overcome jealousy or how to decide if your plot or character matter more. Great stuff.)
How do you overcome Overthinking?
In my mind, this usually gets entwined up with “writer’s block.” In both instances you sit to write but words don’t come out. Then, because the words aren’t magically appearing like some pixie dropping fairy dust on your open documents, you start freaking you. You panic, wondering why you’re doing this when you could be doing something else. When it’s time to clean the dishes you step up to the sink then just start scrubbing, right? Can I scrub the keyboard? Would that make the words appear? Why aren’t the words appearing!?
Something like that.
I have three rules I follow to help me get stuff done:
1) “You Didn’t Plan Enough!”
These posts don’t come from nowhere. In fact, most of my writing starts in notebooks. I’ve talked about this before, that the best thing you can do is carry a notebook with you everywhere (my preferred choice is Field Notes) and jot down whatever comes to mind. Then, if there’s a good idea in there, one that can have some legs, expand on it. Let it flow. Keep writing stuff to build it up, even if you don’t think it’s “good.” It’s your notebook, after all, no one is going to read it. It’s a special place that let’s ideas exist for no one’s judgement.
Then, if the legs take it far enough to where I think it’ll hold up as a blog post, I transfer it all into a Microsoft OneNote document. I have separate tabs for every writing project I work on, so everything I wrote in the notebook gets typed up in one of those tabs. From there, I build on it more, adding some bits, taking some bits out. Again, there’s no guarantee it’s going to be Published online or anything, but I keep at it to see if it will.
Finally, if I like how it looks in OneNote, I’ll bring it over here.
So you see, none of this starts from scratch. It’s all builds off of something else, making sure it’s supported before the final product is Published.
2) The Invisible Foe
One of the earliest problems I encountered when I told myself, “Hey, you should try to write words for a living,” was comparing myself to someone else. People might call this a form of “imposter syndrome,” where you tell yourself that you’re not good enough, that you’re writing will never stack up to already published authors, etc.
This is a slight variation on that.
I used to imagine that someone, I don’t know exactly WHO, was reading my work and telling me it sucked. That it was no good. That I should give this up and move back into teaching because I’ll never make it as an author.
It took a while, still, to beat this Invisible Foe, because they don’t exist. They’re not out there, waiting in the wings of the internet, hoping for me to publish something so they can jump on it.
This enemy only exists in your mind.
The sooner you tell yourself they’re not real, the faster you’ll realize that you can become your favorite author.
3) Set A Time Limit
I’m an educator. I lived by my daily calendar up on the wall. If I didn’t set time limits for myself, my lessons would have gone on forever.
When you sit to write set a timer for 25 minutes. Once that timer goes off, step away from your computer for 5 minutes. Stretch, get a drink, use the restroom, whatever. Don’t even think about going back to your laptop until that 4 minute timer is up. Then, when it is, go back and work for another 25 minutes. Do this process 3-4 times. On the last one, take a break for 30 minutes. For me, that last one is usually when the boys wake up from their nap so, in essence, I’m done writing for the day. (For the already informed this is called the Pomodoros Technique.)
You’ll be surprised how much you can get done when you set boundaries on yourself. Boundaries spark creativity and push you to push past them.
Hope this helps.
Set a timer. Tell that invisible foe to shut up. And write, write, write.
Thanks for reading,
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