Challenge Journal 2

// Resistance to overwriting //

I keep getting stuck overanalyzing whether or not I’ll actually use what I’m writing in my finished project.  I found myself pausing several times during the writing process to ask myself – is this too much detail?  do I really need to explain this part of the story?  is this too obvious or restating what I’ve already said?

Although I think these are important questions to ask, I feel like they’re preventing me from getting all my ideas fully flushed out and on paper.  I know that it’s much easier to cut down on excess content, but I feel like I keep preventing myself from creating it.  I think that if I can just allow myself to freely write, I’ll be able to go back and determine whether or not the content is useful more decisively.  The problem is, I keep interrupting myself to second guess the value of the train of thought I’m on.

I’ve noticed this issue in the past as well, because I usually try to edit as I write (even though I always end up going back and re editing most of my previous edits).  The feeling that I have to perfect a sentence before I move past it has proven to slow me down and hold back my ideas without actually improving the quality of my writing.  I noticed this same situation in English 325 when I first began writing more personal essays.  When I’d be describing a scene or telling a personal story, I’d repeatedly stop in the midst of writing to try to decide whether a specific detail was necessary.  When I looked back over the entire story after it was written, it was much easier to determine what was important and what was not.  I’m hoping to focus on letting myself write in excess so I can pull out the quality bits and pieces afterwards when the entire picture is much clearer.

For example, in an essay on imagination I described childhood fantasies and make believe games.  I wanted to paint a vivid picture for the reader so they really felt a part of the world I imagined.  However, I didn’t want it to be too wordy or excessive in detail.  I settled with the writing below:


In one moment I’m a mermaid, swimming back and forth across the expanse of my living-room-turned-underwater-paradise.  Climbing dramatically up onto a couch cushion, I perch myself on the “rock” as invisible waves crash around me and the imaginary wind whips my hair.  I am no longer a little girl with tangled short brown pigtails wearing a hand me down tutu, atop a popsicle drip stained couch cushion. Instead I am a glistening mermaid, with a shimmery green tail and luscious red locks, surveying my underwater kingdom.  

Then, in an instance, the waves dissipate and the cool salty air thickens to a hot, heavy humidity.  Deep in the mystical forest I fly from tree to tree, weaving through vines and soaring across waterfalls.  A creature of my own making, I spread my golden wings and whip my lionlike tail. As I leap from couch cushion to couch cushion, I am worlds away from my little town in a universe completely my own.  Swirling through my brain and emanating from within, I have magic.


Working through these two paragraphs took me significantly longer than I expected because I kept fretting over adjectives, additional sentences, additional examples, etc.  I didn’t want to let myself leave a single sentence until it was perfect.  I think I would’ve been able to craft something more efficiently that served the purposed I wanted if I had allowed myself to overwrite, then went back to pick out the valuable parts.

2 thoughts to “Challenge Journal 2”

  1. Hey Caroline,
    I resonated pretty hard with this post, especially in terms of hyper-analyzing things. It’s something that I have caught myself doing very frequently (I spent three weeks making stylistic edits for a paper that was due at one point!), and am trying to resist the temptation as well. It was that way with a poetic essay I did for an English 325 class; I was not sure how much detail to include, whether some parts of it were too in-depth, how to make it more smooth, etcetera.
    In terms of your dilemma, it might not be a bad idea to run with the train of thought you’re thinking of with free-writing. Your brain is wandering towards that subject matter for a reason; why not see if it could be incorporated as a little aside/footnote into your project as a whole? Instead of worrying about something being integral to the piece, just leave it and reflect on it as a stage in the writing process. If you don’t want to include it with your project, then you could include it as a fun behind-the-scenes aspect that you can include in your website. It’s hard coming up with perfect first drafts, so by showing these deviating elements in your writing process, it ultimately makes you more relatable to the reader as an individual and as a writer.

  2. Hi Caroline,

    I relate to this so much. One thing I’ve been trying to do is to create a separate space for my sporadic thoughts (whether that be a question of the value of the current point I’m making or another good idea for something to include). That way, I can force myself to continue writing and generating content while also not having the fear of the thoughts you’re having slipping away. Though, I get it; I don’t want to spend anymore time than I have to generating content that will just be trashed. I’m not sure there really is a way to get over that one. If you find a way, let me know immediately.

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