An Overthinker’s Guide to Writing for Business
I know the struggle.
You have a cute tiny seed of an idea. But before you can do anything about it, it grows into a baobab. It’s just too big and scary to deal with.
No thought that’s born in your head is a single child. It always comes with tens of Or-I-Can siblings and What-If cousins. You try to look after all of them, but they propagate too fast.
Your journey is never a straight one. Every few steps, you find yourself at a crossroad. And the constant decision making is exhausting.
You are an overthinker.
I don’t know how to switch it off for good, but here are a few things your hyperactive brain should consider so it can stop ruining your writing. Because overthinking rarely makes your writing better.
Overthinking your writing? Here's how to stop messing around and share the work that matters. Click To Tweet
Too much time will kill you
The more time your brain has, the longer it can feed your fear. Here’s how it works:
The trick is to hit publish before the fear is bigger than you. How?
★ Set short deadlines.
★ Schedule short writing sessions. Take breaks.
★ Have a clear objective for each of the sessions, and don’t switch between tasks: generating ideas, outlining, research, writing, editing, and so on.
★ Don’t participate on feeding your fear (see the next point).
Let your fear starve
Here’s what the fear likes to eat:
★ Comparison. Whenever you look around yourself and compare yourself to others, you fear flourishes.
★ Stories. The ones your inner critic likes to tell you: Not-good-enough reports, memories of your past failures, tragic scenarios, everyone-hates-me narratives, and all the others. Don’t listen to that BS. Most of it is made up, anyway.
★ Advice. The more you learn, the more stupid you feel. Learning and reading about writing is good, but only when you write more than you study writing.
★ Waiting. You: “I’ll sleep on it.” “I still need to do a bit of a research.” “Tomorrow is another day.” Your fear: “Yessss!”
Don’t feed your fear; it will grow and once it’s bigger than you, it will eat you. The only way to take control of its growth is to do the thing anyway and do it now.
Simplify: Answer this question (and nothing else)
Once you start writing, even the simplest idea turns out to be… more complex than you thought. There’s always more to learn about it, more to add to it, and oh, you must also include this.
Curiosity is your friend, but you have to set boundaries. Here’s how: Before you start writing, ask yourself: What does the reader need to be able to do after they read it?
This way, you’ll narrow down your focus. You’ll go from what else you can add to what the reader needs and from everything you know to everything the reader needs to know.
The result? An easy to digest, actionable, entertaining article – as opposed to a tiring, heavy, and overwhelming one.
Your brain doesn’t overthink to make your writing worse or to make your life harder. In fact, it’s trying to help you. It wants your work to be the best it can be. But overthinking doesn’t lead to a better work.
Often, it doesn’t let you finish and ship your work at all. And if you do manage to ship it, it’s not better than it would have been if you had shipped it earlier. In other words, if you let your idea grow in your head, it doesn’t get better.
It gets bigger and scarier – both for you and your readers:
When you overthink your writing, it’s not helpful anymore. So, whenever your brain starts being too helpful, just stop it. Simply acknowledge that (a) you are overthinking and (b) it doesn’t help you do a better job.
This can help you break the overthinking loop.
Overthinking doesn't make your writing better. It makes it scarier.Click To Tweet
Shift your focus to helping people
Overthinking lives in the same part of your brain as perfectionism or fear of self-promotion. All of these demons like to hide behind good intentions, but in fact, they sabotage your work and keep you from helping people who need you.
When your main mission isn’t to be perfect, impress your competitors, please everyone, or show off your expertise, but to share the work that helps people live better lives, you won’t have to worry that much.
In the online business world, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of believing that your work has to be epic, or it’s not worth sharing at all. This “epicness” is measured mostly by quantity: 5k-word blog posts with free content upgrades, 57-module online courses with 295-page workbooks, summits featuring 61 experts on the topic.
But is overdelivering always a good thing?
Is all the free content helping people, or adding to their overwhelm?
What’s the completion rate of the “epic” mega-course?
Most importantly: What did the people who consumed all the content do with it? How did their lives get better? Where are they now?
What if we, online teachers and coaches, quit being epic and started being helpful again?
Instead of making our clients say, “OMG, I can’t believe you’re sharing all of this for free!” or “Wow, this is the biggest course I’ve ever seen in my entire life!” make them say: “Look, I implemented this one tip and this is what I’ve created,” or “I did this and I’m so proud of myself.” Whatever – as long as it’s about them and their lives, not about us.
We can still be epic sometimes. But most of the time, enough is enough.
It’s time to find the courage…
★ To ask yourself “How can I simplify this?” instead of “What else can I add?”
★ To let your readers, students, and coaching clients do most of the work — without feeling lazy. Because the one who does the work is the one who learns.
★ To stop glorifying epicness and get back to your job: Sharing the work that matters.
✯ Do you agree? Please share the article on your favorite social media. Thank you!