I work from direct observation because the unconscious works better that way. Working from life is like a conversation with a stranger. You're not sure what you're going to say. Working from our heads, the same convenient cliché is repeated over and over again. Looking without ruminating seems to yield more surprising, and ultimately more honest, results.
I am learning not to over-think the process. I try to paint what I see. I can worry about the results at the end of the painting day. Yogi Berra asked, 'How can you think and hit at the same time?' His question is an invaluable bit of art coaching. Enjoy the game!