I have been accused of overthinking many times. I admit, I do overthink. I’ve given it a lot of thought, though, and I’m OK with it. These days, it even seems necessary.
Take, for example, my need for a new blender. Earlier this year, the blade for the blender I had for about a decade broke, and I could not find a replacement blade that fit the blender. It was too outdated. My mother-in-law offered to get me a new blender for Christmas and told me to let her know which one I wanted. I spent over an hour looking at blenders online to decide *which one* I wanted. (Yes, I am one of those women who actually loves receiving appliances as gifts. Very practical, useful, makes my life easier, and can facilitate creativity in the kitchen…)
It’s not so simple. Yes, blenders blend…but what will *I* put in the blender to blend? There lies the problem. How powerful do I need it to be? Am I just making smoothies, or will I make peanut butter? Did you know that some blenders now come with a heating element so you can make smooth soups from start to finish IN the blender? That is really neat! But there’s a catch! The pitcher is smaller than the other version I’m looking at. Hmmm. Can it make enough soup for a whole meal with leftovers? I like leftovers…it reduces the number of times I have to cook (see, practical.) Plus, the other blender has an option to switch out the big pitcher for a single-serving one, which occasionally comes in handy – a feature the one with the heater does not have. However, the one with the switch-out option only comes with a plastic pitcher, which is not ideal. Other brands in the same price range have glass pitchers, but the blades are only at the bottom of the pitcher. Experience tells me they clog up, need a lot of fussing, and would not be able to make peanut butter. This one here has two extra 16oz single-serve cups. One slightly more powerful has four extra single-serve ups, but they are all different sizes. What size single serve cup do I need? I don’t want all these useless sizes taking up room in my cupboard. Is the extra power worth another $75 dollars? Which one do I choose? I *have to* overthink. I *must* overthink in order to get the right one the first time. Someone else can waste their time and money buying a second or third blender when the first isn’t quite right. Or they can grumble and complain when the item doesn’t do what they want it to. I will put my time and effort in upfront, overthinking about all the questions.
I’ve been consciously overthinking for as long as I can remember. When I was in first grade, I used my overthinking for an assignment in art class and got in trouble for it. We had to make a picture of an apple tree, and I put some of my apples on the ground. The art teacher was upset with me for not “following directions.” (Strange, but true.) Well, my overthinking mind told me that some of the apples dropped. When I was thirteen, my mother used to take me and my sister to get an ice cream cone at Baskin Robbins before my piano lesson some weeks. Let me tell you, it was VERY HARD to choose from 31 flavors! Sometimes it took me fifteen minutes to decide. I distinctly remember that one of the important factors was that certain flavors made me more thirsty than others, and I wasn’t going to have access to water until my lesson was over.
I overthink in composition, too. How can I not? Every single chord comes with a zillion options. Which note should be lowest in pitch? Which note is highest? How many times should I double each note (depending on the size of the group, of course.) Which instrument should play which note? Where those notes are located in each instrument’s range drastically changes the effect! Which combination creates the effect I am hearing in my head? How many pitches are there anyway? How do I want to move into and out of each pitch in every location? Multiply those questions by the number of notes in a piece.
I don’t really know how other composer do their work. I suspect everyone’s approach is unique. When I was taking lessons, my teacher once commented that I didn’t seem too used to editing my work. I wasn’t sure what he meant because I edit all the time. I just edit at a different stage in the process. When I’m ready to present something to someone, it’s pretty much done. If I made mistakes, most likely it was because I didn’t know better. Occasionally, it might be that I got fed up with my project, became impatient, was running out of time. and did a half-assed job. (Though that is an embarrassing truth, I am sure that I am not alone in the artistic world. All you authors who write amazing novels until the last 50 pages, I’m looking at you.)
Overthinking slows me down some, though as I am increasingly familiar with materials and options and their impacts, I will be able to move through the checklists more quickly. I try to remind myself that I can go back and fix my work later. Sometimes I set challenges for myself, like writing for the next 15 minutes without stopping or erasing anything. I have to train myself not to overthink *too* much. (If that isn’t an oxymoron…) But the truth is that overthinking usually gets me results that make me happy, so instead of trying to be like someone else I’m going to use my overthinking to my advantage. I mulled it over. It’s a good choice.