overthinking is a creativity boner-killer

You are smart. You are capable. You are made of stardust.

So why can’t you leave well enough the fakken-fakk alone?

Creativity is kind of my jam, in my actual paying job, as well as in my, you know, creative job. I’ve done presentations for professionals about how to be creative.

It’s a mind-effer for sure, for people who are not used to being creative. Just try stuff, I would say. See how it goes.

For people who are used to thinking and planning, creativity is a new and terrifying prospect. You mean I just do something, without thinking about it?

Kinda, yeah.

Creativity is a mf-er of an endeavor, because we can’t predict where it’ll come from, or where it’ll lead. Sure, experienced writers are able to plan out their stories, and follow their plans with relative ease.

Planning versus pantsing is a big discussion in the writing community right now. (FTR, I am a plantser, and split the difference.) There’s nothing wrong with planning, especially when you’re trying to get your footing in a new project.

The problem comes when you are planning past the point where it benefits you to do so. That’s the point at which it becomes intellectual jerking off.

To me, it looks like this:

The awesomeness graph, created by the author using canva.com

The more you think about something, the better it gets– to a point. That point is called peak awesomeness. After you hit peak awesomeness, any additional thinking won’t improve it, and may even make it worse.

(Now, I should add a caveat: humongous projects like a novel require a MASSIVE butt-load of thinking and hard work, so they’re a little bit excempt from this algorithm. This is more about smaller projects and decisions that need to be made. I will likely address a novel-length project in another series of posts, so stay tuned!)

How do you know you’ve hit peak awesomeness? Experience, mostly. Or a critique partner can help too. Another way to test this algorithm in your own work is to let it sit for a couple of weeks and come back with fresh eyes. Or you can save a version first, then edit it, then let both versions sit for a week and see where they’re at. Maybe you’ll combine the versions, Frankenstine-style. Or maybe one is the clear winner. In any case, I don’t have a pat answer for you. Where is peak awesomeness in any piece of art? Damned if I know.

But peak awesomeness exists, and there is a point at which you are hanging on when you don’t need to.

Thinking about things generally feels good, which is why we like doing it. Putting our work out into the world feels terrifying and overwhelming, and this is why we usually don’t like doing it as much. It is more comfortable to stay within the four walls of our minds, thinking and planning and hoping. And not taking the risk.

Your mind will come up with infinite thoughts, solutions to potential made-up problems, possible ways to improve your work. But at some point, your thinking is shielding you from taking a risk. Creativity is about jumping off the cliff, and seeing where you land. You can plan for a hundred landing spots, but at the end, you just gotta jump.

Try. Fail. Reflect. Try again. That is the pathway to creating. It generally always starts with trying. You can’t reflect until you try. And you can’t end with reflection, because you’ve gotta put your thoughts into action. No amount of planning will prevent a failure. And no amount of reflection precludes the need to try again.

Creating is an endless cycle, and since I’m in a design-y mood, here is the cycle, in graphic form:

The cycle of creation, created by the author using elements from canva.com.

It’s a tough slog, and there aren’t any shortcuts. Creating is “soul work” and requires you to hold space with uncertainty and self-doubt.

But it is totally worth it. Creating is the best thing there is, the best part of being alive as a human. Exercising your creativity is fully living within your potential as a human. It’s gonna be great.

Published by amy

Coffee-drinker, money-saver. Laughs at "that's what she said."

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