100 Days of Overthinking: An Illustrated Diary of Mental Meanderings
A visual serenade to presence and a lamentation of how we continually eject ourselves from it.
By Maria Popova
“My experience is what I agree to attend to,” William James wrote in his timeless treatise on attention and multitasking, and yet at any given moment we notice only a fraction of what is actually going on around us. The vast majority of our attention is spent on rumination, speculation, daydreaming, and the various acrobatics of anxiety, hope, and fear that occupy our inwardly oriented minds. But while mind-wandering may be integral to creativity, it has also been shown to rob us of happiness by ejecting us from presence.
I was overthinking, as usual, when I bumped into this blackboard outside a café that I pass by every day. I realized that I’m often so absorbed in my own thoughts that I miss the simple, beautiful things that surround me. My overthinking often keeps me from being present.
In an effort to be more mindful of these overthoughts and bring herself back into presence with whatever was before and around her, she set out to notice and record one hundred such moments. In each daily drawings, Sanoja captures something that beckoned her attention alongside the respective mental meandering.
With the sensibility of a children’s book for grownups partway between Catherine Lepage’s Thin Slices of Anxiety, Andrew Kuo’s Wheel of Worry, and Jean-Pierre Weill’s Well of Being, the resulting pairings radiate the absurd mismatch between the physical reality of the exterior world and the subjective reality of our interior world, exposing the parallel universe of psychoemotional experience that we so often inhabit as our bodies traverse the so-called real world.
Sanoja’s 100 Days of Overthinking part of the annual 100 Days Project initiative by the Masters in Branding program at New York’s School of Visual Arts, which tasks students with envisioning a creative operation, performing it for one hundred consecutive days, and documenting the ongoing process in a public medium, and which also gave us Turkish designer Yasemin Uyar’s lyrical visualizations of city life.
Published July 14, 2016