My brain is a perpetual swirling thoughts-storm.
The moment I wake up in the morning my brain starts spitting out tasks I need to do attend to: Shower, check email, make coffee. Then comes the picking apart. Do I know what happens next in my WIP? Have I given the characters enough depth? No, I haven't. Oh my, what now? Can I figure it out? Maybe I should take a day off, or maybe I should do nothing today but work on the book.
Whew! I get worn out before getting out of bed. All of that brain activity could freeze me at my computer with crickets for story ideas. I employ various counter-active methods. Pictures of fierce Wonder Woman on a wall in my writing space remind me to be strong. Sayings and quotes also posted around me remind me that the first draft is supposed to be crap; following my passion will give me pleasure; and that no one said writing is easy.
Some of my heroines and heroes display the overthinking process when overwhelmed. Here's an example from my book, Nutcracker Sweet.
A man stepped out of a small grouping of trees and stood in her path. Her heart jumped into her throat.
“Who is there?” The man knew her, apparently, but she couldn’t see his face. His face hid in the darkness of a hood. She slowed her steps.
“It’s Simon, Simon Conner.” He remained in the middle of the sidewalk. “I saw you walking. I hope I didn’t scare you.”
“Oh, Simon. Hi.” Closer now, she could make out his face, and the tension in her body eased. “I guess I didn’t recognize you outside of my office.” She chuckled. A quaver in her voice might have conveyed fear, but maybe he didn’t notice.
“I recognized you.”
His words were simple, succinct. Why did they make her shiver? She stopped beside him and peered up into his face. “You haven’t been to see me lately. How are you doing?”
“Do you mean am I drinking, using, or harassing my wife? I don’t see any point to meeting with you if you can’t help me find a job. Without a job, I can’t pay child support. No child support, no seeing my son.” He took a pull on his cigarette and let it out slowly.
“No, I’m not referring to those things. I’m interested in how you are. But if you want to talk, call my office and I’ll be happy to listen. Do you still have the phone number?” Noël patted her pockets, fully knowing she wouldn’t find any business cards. She stomped her feet in the light blanket of snow. “Boy, it’s getting colder out here. Call my office, please, Simon. Have a good evening.”
“I’ll see you around.” He dropped his cigarette and smashed it under his foot.
She saw the cigarette smolder in the snow because she hadn’t turned her back on him. Start walking, Noël. Calm your imagination. He’s not going to drag you off into the bushes. She pivoted, slamming her feet down one step at a time. Her steps echoed around but they were the only ones she heard. She would not look over her shoulder, not until she reached the downtown.
“Mind if I walk with you?” Simon strode up to her side, keeping pace.
Her stomach knotted. “Oh, no, of course not. You’re going into town?”
“Guess so.” He shrugged and grinned.
A crazy-dance of thoughts swirled in her head. He had punched his wife’s face purple. He had demanded Noël negotiate visitation for him. Stop it, just stop. Her clients were not her enemies. But the alcohol wafting off Simon and his closeness triggered weakness and helplessness in her. Instinct clamored, get away, get help!
Right now my best advice for myself and perhaps for anyone is Don't Think Too Much. Stop right there. Admit it, you're thinking about it. Okay, that's normal. Just don't spend too much time on it.
Really, it's good advice. Thinking too much can stall any project. Stalled projects can became haunting reminders of failure. No more pleasure in writing. Little progress. Just stop thinking and assume without dissection that you have what it takes to bring the story, the painting, the song, the dinner, to life in your own uniquely spectacular way.
Dr. Rick Hanson discusses overthinking in an article for Psychology Today.
When your thought processes are tired, it doesn’t feel good. You’re not relaxed, and probably stressed, which will gradually wear down your body and mood. You’re more likely to make a mistake or a bad decision: studies show that experts have less brain activity than novices when performing tasks; their thoughts are not darting about in unproductive directions. When the mind is ruminating away like the proverbial hamster on a treadmill, the emotional content is usually negative – hassles, threats, issues, problems, and conflicts – and that’s not good for you. Nor is it good for others for you to be preoccupied, tense, or simply fried.
A busy, creative mind can produce wonderful things.
Just don't think about it too much.
Image credits Publicdomainphotos