Archive for September 10th, 2010

Friday, September 10th, 2010 by Rosemary
Mixmaster of Overthinking

Today’s post has a visual aid. This road map of the creative process, needs perusal to fully appreciate, but the part I’m taking about today is in the bottom center. You can not miss it. Go look and come back. (If you’re in a hurry, go look, bookmark it for later, and read on here.)

This road map is so true–I recognized every sign post, twist and turn. Most of them made me cringe. But that “Overthinking” signpost leading to that snarled, nightmare mixmaster from hell… that got me where I live.

I’m an overthinker, an obsessor, a try-it-five-ways-and-come-back-to-the-original type. WAY too often, usually in the middle of the book, my process looks pretty much exactly like that illustration.

So how do you get off the Mix Master of Overthinking?

Exit 1: Catch yourself early and get out while you can. Commit to a course and don’t second guess yourself. Just, in the words of Tim Gunn, “Make it work.”

Exit 2: You’re waffling between option A or B. If one choice is not obviously better (in which case you wouldn’t be on the overthink highway), chances are they’re both equally good, or equally bad, so just flip a coin, commit to it, and don’t look back. (See exit 1.)

Exit 3A: Cognitive dissonance has you in it’s lock-jawed grip. You’ve made a pro/con comparison spreadsheet and done a market analysis. Roll dice, pick one, and/or screw it and go back to your original idea. (Are you seeing a trend here?)

Exit 3B: Jump forward in the book and work fresh from there. It will usually become quite clear the way the problem chapters need to unfold, because problems are often obvious in retrospect.

Exit 547: (This mixmaster is as big as Texas) You have written and rewritten your chapters/book so many times that you don’t remember your original vision. You don’t even remember why you wanted to write this book in the first place. Your chapters seem written by committee (because of all the voices in your head), and it’s frayed like a piece of knitting that’s been taken out and reknit too many times.

And like that knitting, you may have to start with a fresh ball of yarn after it’s been hopelessly snarled by trying to change patterns in the middle of a project. At this point your best bet is to take all your prose, put it in a file marked “salvage” and start over. If you can get back to your original vision, great. If not, work on something new, or an offshoot of your original idea.

Just remember… don’t (ever) through anything away. Because UNlike unravelled yarn, ideas can be salvaged.