Are We Overthinking Our Writing?
As I write this, a beautiful golden retriever lays at my feet with her duck toy.
Yes, her name is Marnie. And no, she is not my dog.
I am currently hanging out with her while her family volunteers at Leader Dogs for the Blind this afternoon. After a stroll down the block and a dog bowl feast, she is pooped.
Literally and figuratively.
“I’ll get a few things done before you’re ready to play again,” I said to Marnie.
She exhales through her nose.
But I made one tragic mistake before her family walked out the door: I forgot to ask for the WIFI password.
When it comes to crossing things off my to-do list, it’s amazing how depended I am on the Internet.
That only leaves one thing for me to do: Write this week’s blog post.
I had a great idea for a blog post, but I wanted to get a grasp on the subject matter before diving in—and that meant relying on the Internet.
(I understand that there are other ways of obtaining information, but I refuse to go to the library if it means leaving my new dog friend alone.)
So that means starting from scratch. How can I come up with an original idea without double-checking the search engines? How do I know that I’m right without fact-checking against other sources?
Once again, I am overthinking my writing. And that stops now.
Am I overthinking my writing?
The simple answer: Of course.
We all do this. We spend too much time worrying about if we conducted enough research to write, if we understand our characters enough to write, if we have imagined the scene or concept far enough to write.
But what’s enough? And what’s just too darn much?
When I was in high school, I always had big ideas for stories. I spent hours diagramming a character’s likes, dislikes, life history, insecurities, proud points, physical features…
…that I never picked up the pen and wrote the story.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to understand the depth of your characters just as it’s important to create a complex plot structure.
But if it’s keeping you from writing the story, then you’re overthinking your writing.
Why do we overthink our writing?
It’s usually because we don’t trust ourselves to get it right the first time. You doubt your writing talent to take hold of your vision and execute it.
And your intuition is correct: You will not get it right the first time.
I’m not insulting your writing skills. All writers—even the greatest ones—don’t get their story right the first time.
Because we’re not supposed to write flawlessly. Just because you don’t get all your ideas on paper today doesn’t mean that it will never make it into the story.
When you make time to write, it should be solely dedicated to writing, not editing as you go.
So, how do I stop overthinking my writing?
Write down how you see the character right now, how you envision the environment right now, how you observe the dialogue and action right now. Write down how you see it in this moment.
It may change tomorrow or next week. You may need to do some serious editing and rewriting.
But that’s part of the craft and beauty of writing. Think of it as watching the behind-the-scenes extra footage of your story. You get to watch your story unfold and grow in a way your readers never experience.
And that’s just one of the many perks of being a writer.
So, do you overthink your writing? Share your story below.
This is such an important message. I find even in the first draft I can get stuck on things like the perfect word. Did he pull on her arm, or tug on it? Maybe he yanked it? Getting the words right is what writing is all about (as Mark Twain said, the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug). I have to remind myself, though, to leave that struggle for revision.
Very true Celia! It’s a constant battle of turning off your internal editor in order to let the writer to just write. Both writing and editing are very important for the story, but each has its place and time.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post.