Can you overthink an idea?

Do you ever just mull your ideas over so much that you end up disillusioned? Can you end up overthinking an idea?

I don’t mean in terms of making something overly complex, though that’s also an issue, and I don’t mean in terms of talking yourself out of something. I mean in terms of thinking about something so much, for so long, that you just… get bored?

Here on the Clouds, I run something called Work in Progress Wednesday where I invite all of you to to come and share whatever it is you’re working on; be it a painting, a song, a photograph, or a book…. the latter being my main reason actually starting this. See, WiPW used to be something I did to let you know how MY WiP was going. The thing is it hasn’t been going, my work hasn’t been progressing, and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m bored.

The WiP I first wrote to you all about, way back in November last year, was called Remembrance in Blood. It’s a story idea I’ve worked on for a few years now, I wrote the first chapter in 2010 and the rest grew from there. It hasn’t always been my main focus, but last year I decided it should be, and I decided I should stick with something and actually turn a Work in Progress to a Work in Completion (WiC?).

The thing is, I don’t plan as much as I should; I never have. I do however mull ideas over in my mind; a lot. I am almost always considering something what happens in my novel, an event, an exchange between characters, a shocking revelation. Sometimes I mull over what I’ve already thought about once before, twice before, three times before…. Sometimes my brain is stuck on repeat and I replay scene after scene again and again. Then I wonder… is it killing my enthusiasm?

I’m eager for people to read my work, I really am, and when it comes to a short story, a Three Line Tale, or anything of that nature I’ll get it done and up and ready to view. When it comes to my WiP though I find myself stunted, I try to write some of it and feel like I’ve seen it too many times before and, whilst it might be new to all of you, and I might be eager for you to watch it, for me it’s an old rerun I’ve seen far too many times recently.

Perhaps I just need to actually get my ideas written down whilst I’ve got them, before I’ve ran them through my brain for eight years. True, I normally have a new revelation once a month or so, but I would also have a finished first, even second draft by now that I could add it all into.

Perhaps, after all this, after my self assurance that this would be the piece I finally write all the way to the finish line, I need to take a break from it. Perhaps I need to work on a book thats almost like a palette cleanser. Something shorter, sweeter, and fresher. In fact, perhaps that’s what I’ll do for NaNoWriMo this year.

I want to get my WiP out, I want it’s story to be heard, but it’s not the story I’m telling right now. It doesn’t feel fresh to me, and if I’m not enthused I wont do it justice. I’m going to take a break from it, from even thinking about it, and I’m going to tackle something (almost) complete new. Watch this space!

Do you ever get sick of your own work? After thinking about it so much, or re-reading it so many times. How do you cope? What inspires you to keep going? Let me know in the comments below!

59 thoughts on “Can you overthink an idea?

  1. Pingback: My #WiPW for #NaNoWriMo – Clockwork Clouds

  2. Really interesting, I can see this in my son and also in my daughter with her artwork…she is never happy and always overthinks to the point of not finishing paintings. A habit her tutor is trying to break in her! I have shared this link on Pain Pal regular feature Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You! Claire x

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    1. If its a habit that can be broken early, I wish her all the power to do so! It causes no end of frustration, and leaving pieces unfinished is a real shame 😦 Sometimes its a necessary evil, but like you said sometimes it becomes a bad habit!

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  3. Pingback: Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You | Pain Pals

  4. I’m hoping to pick up my WIP from 2005 – it’s about time I finished it. In between I’ve loved it, loathed it, renamed it, nearly binned it, nearly published it. It’s time I sorted it! πŸ™„

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  5. This post made me think of about how my sister, who is an amazing knitter, would create a sweater but would hate it by the time she finished it. So she would give them to me. But then she would be sorry she did after she saw me wearing them. So she decided to put then in the closet for a bit to forget about them and then take them out later and like them again. Bummer for me as my sweater supply dried up, but it did solve her problem. πŸ™‚
    Space from a project gives you a new perspective and a fresh set of eyes to look at it.

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    1. Haha! I loved your anecdote, Diana, I think that really sums it up! They often say with written work you should leave it to lie in a box under your bed for awhile, so you can look at it a fresh. I think it’s a symptom of being too close to our work.

      I hope you managed to get a few sweaters out of your sister more recently! She should look into something like Etsy if she hasn’t already πŸ™‚ It’s what my Mom does with her knitted creations!

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  6. I’m on a tight deadline at the moment for my next novel but have recently struggled with the way the plot was heading. I almost dreaded sitting down to type the next scenes. I ended up printing the entire thing off and switching out loads of chapters. The flow is much better now but OMG I had major brain ache for a while. πŸ™‚

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    1. I think that brain ache is our way of stopping ourselves! It’s amazing that our imaginations/minds seem to know things before we do; we dread writing the next bit because we know it’s not 100% right, for instance. I’m glad you got it sorted, Shelley! When is your due date? (Book-wise, obviously!)

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      1. Phew! I thought I’d done my bit for the world population πŸ˜‰ Probably looking at a March release. Edits begin at the end of November and then my entire head will explode, never mind the brain ache πŸ™‚

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  7. I’m pretty sure you already know what I think on this–sometimes the best ideas don’t feel like the places we want to live anymore. A vacation, or even a move, is the best thing we can do for our creativity as a whole. It’s not about any one project, it’s about nurturing a life of creativity. Though I do often reflect on the persistence necessary to see a project like a novel all the way through to the end. It’s not easy. It’s a long, slow climb. But knowing the difference between not wanting to do the work, and not wanting to do the work for that specific project can be game changing.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store for your next WiP!

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    1. Haha, I may have had your #WiPW post in the back of my mind when I wrote this, Angela. What I’ve learnt is, whether we shelve an idea or not, whether we take a break from it or not, it’s important to reflect on the WHY we want to take that break. Are we just being lazy? Is life just getting us down? Or is there something about the piece we’re writing?

      I’m all about self reflection, and I think we find answers there.

      Even since writing this post, and having it scheduled, my attitude towards that WiP has changed once again… I think the break is helping it breath a little, and who knows I might go back to it sooner rather than later!

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      1. That’s awesome, Shaun. Sometimes I think self-deception is self-reflections’s evil twin brother. It’s easy to mistake the two. I believe the only way I can tell the difference is by acknowledging I might not like self-reflections answer to whatever question I’m wrestling with–and that’s okay. Asking the WHY (and really wanting to know the answer) is key to keeping the evil twin away! I’m so glad your break gave you clarity. I’m looking forward to what comes next.

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  8. I usually take a break which comes automatically to re think my next new article or post…..but I never think of giving up, continuing itself gives me a sense of excitement as new ideas come flashing and helping me to go on with the next writing……

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    1. That’s what blogging is to me as well, thankfully, it is a lot of quick, fresh articles that I can write and take breaks from. It’s my longer work I find a struggle! Haha. At least my next article for my blog will continue to inspire me πŸ™‚

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  9. Yes, sometimes I wonder why I ever started something. So I put it aside and work on something else and try again later. Some things need to incubate longer. Some just totally suck in their current format or voice and it takes stepping back to realize that I might need to let it go in order to breath new life into in somewhere else.

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    1. Couldn’t agree more. I think that step away can help us readjust our perspective. I love that idea of something needing to incubate longer, perhaps our ideas just aren’t fully formed yet and, deep down, we know it. Thanks for the comment, Jennifer πŸ™‚ I’ve definitely put it aside for a little bit, and already I’m feeling a change of heart towards it.

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  10. Hell yeah mate, I probably have (roughly) 30+ projects on the go currently. Not to mention financial planning and learning new things. I get a great deal if anxiety doing music even though it is my passion. It’s just the waiting of projects to be finished, but the best tip I could give you is just keep starting new things – be organized and make a progress plan. Don’t be overwhelmed by your ideas or over think them, just take stock and work on the new. I loved reading your post as this really resonates with me and I think a lot of people can relate. Wishing you well for future ventures. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks for reading, James, glad this post resonated! It’s great to hear there are people out there with more projects than I have on the go! Some of my friends joke that I’m starting something new each week but I find it helps keep creativity churning.

      How on earth do you cope with 30+ Projects? Do you tend to find you have a couple of ‘big’ projects that most of your focus stays on? And smaller ones in between? Or is it just a lot of careful planning?!

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      1. Plenty of breakaway from projects, Saturday’s I focus on nothing.. That’s my day to recharge.. These projects are important to me, but I’d say 70% of them are things I can do whenever I want – no deadlines – that helps me relax a lot. It’s something new that scares me, but I’m learning to be more daring and try new things. Yes, big ones like my course, my day job, my family take priority, of course. There is this book I want to read called ‘hyper creative personality’ think that would help me too, maybe you as well? Wish you all the best in your venture’s! J πŸ™‚

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        1. I find not having a deadline helps me relax a bit TOO much, haha. I’ll end up leaving something to the sands of time. I do think being relaxed about them helps though, and helps us manage our expectations of what the important projects are in life.

          I’ll definitely take a look at the book, sounds like it’s right up my street. Wishing you all the best with all your projects!

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  11. The first novel that I liked enough to publish took ten years to write. If you’re stuck, it might mean that there’s something wrong with the plot or the characters. Have you finished a first draft yet? If you haven’t and you’re already editing what you’ve already written, it might be difficult to get to the end and you will be overthinking what you’ve already done.

    On the other hand, you might have moved on in the last 8 years and the story is no longer one that you need to tell. It’s OK not to finish something, as long as it doesn’t become a habit.

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    1. I think this is why I want to take a break away for a bit, and it’s what I’ll be doing as a NaNoWriMo exercise this year. I feel that, whilst I still like the story and the characters, I’m not as passionate about it as I once was. I think NaNo might serve as a palette-cleanser for me, where I work on something else entirely, and if, afterwards, I still want to come back to this work… Well, it’ll always be there πŸ™‚

      I certainly don’t want it to become a habit though! I have too many unfinished ideas as it is, haha. But they were from a younger, less determined, time!

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  12. I have never tried to write a novel, that’s not my thing, but I love reading them. One of my favourite bloggers is writing a series of novellas, and publishes a chapter everyday on his blog, that I can’t wait to read. He has the discipline to do that, write a chapter a day. He never has a plan of where the story is going until he sits down to write the next day, and will edit after the novella is finished. I think the main thing is to stop fekking about worrying, and sit down and write! πŸ™‚

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  13. I get sick of my work at least once a week and go through a mini-existential writer crisis at least once a month. I think there is something to be said for just trudging forward. At least, that’s how I do it. If I let something go for too long it’s usually gone for good, but if I keep going even though I don’t like it or it bores the piss out of me or I think it’s awful I usually get to a better place on the other side of that. I think each writer has their own way, though.

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    1. I definitely think dedication and persisitence are necessary tools in a writers belt. It’s great that you trudge on through the darkness. I feel like my current WIP might have been left a little too long, but I also think that if it stays dormant for a while it might one day want to erupt. Until then, I might seek other ideas!

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  14. It happens to me all the time! I feel there is a moment when my writing/drawing/music doesn’t need to be edited anymore. With drawing, it happens for example that I draw too many details of an animal’s fur and it looks stuffed πŸ˜€ With music, it happens that I rehearse a piece too much and I lose the perfect amount of concentration, because I know it too well, and therefore I get distracted and the mistakes start increasing. I think there is a sweet spot for every combination of person and object of art, and I am confident you are on the right way to identifying it right before it’s over. Asking yourself the question is a huge first step!

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    1. I think that’s really interesting what you said about music, that you know the subject too well and the mistakes creep in… that’s something I’ve thought about, but never really acknowledged properly (if that makes sense). It’s definitely all about finding a sweet spot, I think, and then maybe learning how to maximise on that.

      I’m a big believer in self reflection, I love to pose myself a question and wonder how, or why, I’m doing what I’m doing… it’s the psychologist in me! haha. Thanks for a great comment πŸ™‚

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  15. I think a new fresh focus is sometimes a really good idea. Often we get so tied up in a piece of writing that we need to take a step back. It often happens to me when I’m writing a long article and I think and overthink it to exhaustion. But Gary’s right, get your words out, any way you can and edit later. That’s the blood and bone of your story and what gives it life. Good luck.

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    1. Thanks, Miriam! I think what you and Gary have said is correct, and I only really came to that realisation myself last year. I think we trick ourselves into thinking everyone else writes a flawless first draft, when really we’re all in the same boat.

      Hopefully taking a break will help stir my confidence a bit, and I’ll approach it new and fresh.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Interesting to see not just the post, but some of the comments too. So much of this I get Shaun and it can be quite demoralising watching a WIP hibernate amid overthinking as to why. Am I bored with it? Have I left it so long that the mojo has disappeared, have I played so many scenes that the direction is lost? Should I write another book to cleanse the palette, as you put it? Just a few, but amidst that can be underlying issues that are missed. Is it any good? Do I start long projects and often don’t finish them? These are deeper problems that can lead to the excuses being made to rationalise esteem or confidence flaws.

    Not saying that is what’s happening, just that they can impact each other. Like you I don’t plan and that alone is a serious problem. People hav often asked me to write a post on how I go about writing. I’ve put if off for ages, but then I see a post like this and think maybe someone might actually glean something from it.

    WIP, stop running scenes and write. First draft is no about quality, perfection or uber masterpiece. It’s getting the words down, the scaffold that editing builds on. There are many ways to write too. I was lost in courses that were very traditional following Novakovich and rafts of character sheets, storyboards, planning beginning, middle and end. That never resonated with me, but Kings book On Writing did. Bones of the story first. Get it down anyway you can. By the end you know everything better, characters, plot, world and so on. Sounds dead easy, and it is….to say lol.

    I’m coming from a place similar to you though in reality. I have four or five chapters of a book left to do. I started and hit NaNo with it last year getting up to 60k, then left it too long. I have to other books completed though, sitting awaiting decisions on publishing. I feel that might be adding value to stalling too.

    Back to planning….I’ve done CBT and was told that I need to schedule tasks better rather than arriving at them and getting overwhelmed. I spent a year platform building as part of my plan and now I’ve reviewed things it seems there’s a massive amount I need to whip into shape. Enter procrastinating!

    As for the writing thing….did you see my post on the Insecure Writers Support Group? There are links out to the blog hop on it. A world of writers in the same boat….several hundred listed on the hop page as I happens, most are also NaNo participants too. We post using #IWSG the first Monday in every month. Anything from issues with our own writing or words to support others.

    NaNo might be a good place to cleanse your palette too, but think hard on it. Last thing you need is another WIP sitting with the other. Although I do have a suggestion on that using NaNo. Ever tried CampNaNo? They run a few times a year and work the same as November except YOU set the word count and targets. They are brilliant for WIP’s. Especially if you link up with writing buddies to do them with.

    Apologies for rambling….I resonate with this post!

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    1. Never apologise for rambling, Gary! It was a very interesting ramble with a lot to take away.

      Firstly, I love the idea of #IWSG and will be checking that out shortly… like I said in a reply to your other comment (over on the awards blog) I’m up for anything that spreads love, positivity, and generally just helps each other our.

      You’re very right though, that it’s often a wealth of factors that hold us back. I think mine is what I’ve stated here, boredom with an idea (or having seen it play out too many times) but also, what I didn’t mention, is that worry that it’s not good enough too. What if this idea that you’ve been musing on for years and years, is really just a load of rubbish? And you just got carried away? There’s that insecurity, haha. That imposter syndrome! I’m hoping that by taking a break from it, my mind will finally say “Yes! It is good! Get back to it and let the world hear it!” whereas right now… it’s just uncertain!

      Planning (or lack thereof) and feeling overwhelmed is someting I really resonate with. I don’t plan anything in life, I let it hit me as it comes, the Finacee, on the other hand, is a planner and likes everything planned… Planning stresses me out, so I put it off, but then I can often get equally as stressed if I approach something with no plan whatsever!

      Glad my post resonated, Gary. There’s lot’s of food for thought here.

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      1. You may have surmised I tend to roll with comments sometimes. I read somewhere if a comment becomes longer than two sentences you have actually got enough to say to write a blog post! Must plan that one lol.

        To put your project into context King left the Gunslinger in a box for years, same with The Stand when it was getting to the point where he didn’t know where to go. Both of those ended up as masterpieces. I’m the same with my WIP, it’s stalled since last November and yet I have a series on my blog that is the bones of a sequel. I wanted to take that into NaNo this year. I know the ending so maybe I shoul just do it and use the momentum to finish this one afterwards.

        Has anyone read yours? I only ask as my blog has a lot of samples of new work where I use this community for feedback. It’s scary because strangers have the potential to knock it down, but reality says if they do then it’s not working and I need to change things. I also have a couple of beta readers that I send manuscripts to. All of that is to get sounding boards other than me to validate the work. I still sit with the split mind…good….bad…so, so…but at least I have other people’s input.

        The planning thing is something I’ve never done either. I think that’s part of my problem (well the CBT therapist threw that at me and I had no answer that didn’t sound like an excuse!). Trouble I find is it leads to lack of organisation, overthinking and not actually moving forwards. This week I am going to make a list of everything I need to sort wrt writing. That’s daunting because I’ve overthought it so much it’s created a very long list. Therapy says don’t think, do. So does mindfulness. The lists are their way of focusing the mind and providing a visual agenda to follow and tick off as bits get done. I think that represents low level planning. It’s taken me a very long time to recognise that. I know as a child it was automatic…somewhere it fell by the wayside. You describe things very similar to my rationale by the way. Except I’ve actually been told it’s all pants by two professional councillors lol.

        Back to WIP’s I’d like to join in on that with mine if you are up for it. Might help us both! What do you usually ask for?

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        1. I’m hoping, then, the works I’m putting away for now turn out to be a worldwide phenomenon later in my lifetime! haha. But it’s a good point. I’m not shelving these ideas because they have no merit, I like to think I’m shelving them til the time is right for them.

          One of the reasons I’m shelving it, is almost as you’ve described here. I actually have a lot of ideas for the sequel, and yet I haven’t finished the first, and as I find myself getting more excited about the sequel I start to wonder if I’m actually just producing the first as a ‘means to an end’ which really doesn’t do my work justice. That’s why I want to sit on it for a bit, see if I love the series or if I only love certain ideas from either book. I do feel that if you were to produce your second though, as you are doing, it will provide a kick up the behind to finish the first… It’s extra incentive after all, it would allow you to publish two for the price of one! (in theory)

          Nobody has ever read mine, no. Again, it’s due to never being happy with the state of something. It’s a form of arrogance, in a way, I want people to be ‘wowed’ when they read something, but that either means keeping it close to my chest til later drafts, or trying to perfect draft 1 (which is obviously a waste of time). It’s something I intend to do though, perhaps this coming NaNo when I focus on something a bit different.

          For WiP I’d love to have you aboard πŸ™‚ There’s information here, https://clockworkclouds.wordpress.com/wipw/ and a form to fill out, where we can exchange emails without offering them up to the spam bots searching these comment threads! haha. Alternatively, just message me on Facebook πŸ™‚

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  17. I can relate to what you say about the difference in the way you tackle your WIP and the short prompts. Microfiction is an idea that you slap down quickly. It’s all there is a few lines that just need tidying up for grammar and brevity. A WIP is a long haul and you don’t necessarily have the end in sight. Makes it more difficult. Like travelling down a road you don’t know, and not being certain you’re going in the right direction. I write the idea as it comes, usually an opening that captures my imagination. Usually there’s a pause as I let the characters and the initial idea steep, and only then, when I see how the story’s going to end, do I steam ahead with it. Getting over that hump is the tricky part.

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    1. Couldn’t agree more, Jane! Like you, a lot of my ideas (and previous WiPs) have started with an opening, followed by a pause. My problem is I leave that pause far too long! By the time I get to the idea, I’ve ran it over so many times in my mind that it’s no longer as exciting to write. I think I need to get over that hump, as you say, and just get into something. That’s why I’m thinking that, for this NaNo, I’m going to do something quite fresh and new… see if that grabs me!

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          1. Not sure if it will work, but I’m planning to use NaNo as my refresher, I’m going to dive into a project I haven’t really tackled yet (or start something completely fresh). To see where that gets me.

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  18. I’m having that trouble right now. I’ve been writing a episodic fantasy series, but took a month off to do other stuff. Now I am trying to get back to it and write episode four. Also, none of the series has been released yet; the group I am writing with has run into some difficulties and we’ve had to push back our release schedule quite a bit. There’s no longer a set release date, just a fuzzy feeling about the end of the year, maybe. All that adds up to making it very difficult to reengage on the project, despite how much I like the story and the characters I am creating. That particular muse has been drinking all night at the bar and I now somehow need to drag him off the floor and get him to being sensible once again. Coffee is only so strong.

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    1. I think that could definitely be a factor, a lack of determined deadline… because my muse has been able to do as they feel, it’s taking ages to reel them back in and, at the moment, it’s looking better to leave them behind and see if they catch up later! Deadlines are definitely something that help me function, and when left to my own devices I’m a bit of a mess!

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  19. Yes! I think this happens a lot to me. I go over and over an idea until I decide it won’t work. Then, when I actually come to write it, it comes out completely different! I think we need one kind of mull for life ideas, one for writing. We sometimes confuse the two!

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    1. I often get disappointed when the scene doesn’t come out in writing the same way I imagined it in bed the night before. I do my best to take notes when ideas come, but not all the time, and even when I do, I can’t jot down the exact dialogue exchange that bounced around in my thoughts.

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    2. That would make sense! I do enjoy seeing how a story adapts itself on a page, almost like characters take on a life all of their own, twisting and adapting in ways we didn’t expect!

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