Have you ever written something only to go back over it like 900 times and rewrite it every way imaginable? I do it all the time. I have been known to even do it when writing something as simple as a list or a note for my daughters’ school. One of the reasons why is because, as a writer, I don’t want other people to read something I have written and say to themselves, “This guy is a writer…really?” Another reason is because I have a compulsion to make everything I write as clear as possible; no misunderstandings here. Perhaps the most important reason though is because I over think absolutely everything…including my writing.
Over thinking our work is a condition that is an ailment within the writing community. Like any disease it invades writing groups across the nation and makes us all question our work and then rework it until it is a fraction of the idea we began with. It can start with something as simple as a character and a single trait. Does Bill really walk with a limp? Why should I give him a limp? What if he has to run later? What if he dies all because I gave him a stupid limp? Do you see what has happened there? My obsession over Bill’s limp has stopped all story flow. I could feasibly spend hours, even days, on Bill’s limp.
Over thinking your story can keep you from ever finishing it at all. It is for this reason that many seasoned writers will tell you to write your first draft completely through before even really “thinking” about the story at all. I think this is great advice but it does not stop the possibility of over thinking; it just delays it. Now you have your finished first draft but if you are an over thinker you will just do it on the first edit. The key to not over thinking is to not do it at all.
Let’s call it what it is…over thinking is the byproduct of low writing self-esteem. Those of us who over think are not actually over thinking the story but instead we are over thinking ourselves. We need to recognize what is happening in order to correct it. We are not actually questioning the story but our own ability to write the story. It is not unusual to self-doubt as a writer…it is a lonely way to work and often times we don’t get positive feedback and when that happens it is easy for our minds to run amuck. You have to stay on top of how you are feeling about your writing and if need be, you must do all you can to boost your self-confidence. I have a friend who I can call if I am going through it. We boost each other out of the mire of self-doubt. I know that if I don’t deal with it, the story I am working on will never get finished.
So find a friend, be aware of what is really going on and fight self-doubt head-on. If you don’t you will never finish your story and all you will end up with is a guy with a limp and nowhere to go.
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