Posted by: Greg | March 26, 2010

The Overthinking Beast

Relax. You’re thinking too much. Get outta your fuckin’ head, Crash. – Crash Davis, Bull Durham

Important safety tip. Thank you, Egon. – Peter Venkman, Ghostbusters

This post is not supposed to be here. A continuation of my screenwriting jouney discussing Daydreaming should be here instead. I started that post and something happened to my internal editor and I began to suffer from “Overthinking”. And that vile creature pushed me into this post.

So, what is Overthinking?

To me it is when your internal editor consumes copious amounts of performance enhancing drugs to write some of the most eloquent and robust words ever read on one page. Well, the downside is that your internal editor builds themselves up so much they turn into the Incredible Hulk inside a glass shop. This is the equivalent of setting a bull loose in a china shop. Massive destruction and complete loss of anything useful making it to the page. Everything looks good for a second. Then it gets erased. Then something else. A nice cycle of creating and deleting! What every writer enjoys!

No matter what you write the Overthinking behemoth squashes it. I don’t mean this thing just dismisses the idea and looks for a new one. It flat out drop kicks, stomps on, grinds down, and flushes anything you, the writer, creates. It wears you down to the point of exhaustion and all you have to show for your hour of work is a title and maybe a heading and that’s if you are lucky!

There is no direct way to fight back. It’s not like there are weapons in your head to stop this thing. The more words you force on the page the more they get erased, crossed off, or even deleted. The more ideas you think up the quicker the beast grabs them and pukes on them. So, how do you proceed?

Quit. This will be the only time in my life I call it quits. I will stop working. I will go do something else. Watching cats play with a toy after some catnip appease the beast and basically ruin all thoughts. In other words clear your brain! I will play an internet game, only if I think a thirty minute game will reduce the beast back to my internal editor. Otherwise I just call it a lost hour and leave the office, my chair, and my computer alone with the hope of returning to move forward in my script.

Usually I can deal with my internal editor. I’m still learning to keep her silent during first drafts, where I just need to empty my brain on the page. But on rare occasions she wants to nudge in there and point out spelling or sentence structure. I find ways to tell her to cram it. Sometimes she wins and sometimes I win. She only wins by becoming the beast though.

There are no warnings. You can’t prepare. Recognize your internal editor. Should that editor start getting a little uppitty just recognize the beast is growing. And when it rears it head turn and run! Now, I know that sounds like the warnings everyone gave to Neo in The Matrix, in regards to agents. But should you wish to fight the beast, I will not be held responsible for the drooling husk of a human left behind!


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