can't see the forest/wood(s) for the trees

can't see the forest/wood(s) for the trees

Focusing on small details makes one overlook the large picture. John Heywood’s proverb collection in 1546 has it, “Ye cannot see the wood for the trees.” A modern twist was provided by C. S. Lewis in a critique of William Golding’s novel, The Inheritors: “All those little details you only notice in real life if you’ve got a high temperature. You couldn’t see the wood for the leaves.”
See also: forest, see, tree
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