Help me overcome analysis paralysis and be more process-based
January 10, 2014 12:59 PM   Subscribe

I am a writer in several genres, a visual artist,and a photographer. Lately I've been suffering from a terrible case of "analysis paralysis" where I overthink everything and can't make even small decisions about something I'm creating. I have big problems with perfectionism, and I'm far more product-based than I'd like to be. My intuition seems quieter than usual; I'm sure not trusting myself is a major player right now. I'm working on this stuff in therapy, but I wanted to see if anyone here had suggestions as well for overcoming this block. I have found mindfulness meditation and Buddhist perspectives to be helpful and have been trying to incorporate more mindfulness around daily living tasks. I also like Present Perfect by Pavel Somov, a book about using mindfulness to combat perfectionism. But I would like suggestions on other reading or processes or things that might help me get past this. Things designed with creative types in mind would be especially helpful, but I'll take anything.
posted by mermaidcafe to Grab Bag (4 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
You might like to try The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. It takes about 12 weeks to go through it, and folks tend to do well approaching it with an open mind and at the end adopting whichever tools and advice best helps them individually. For me, the morning pages (three freehand pages, written as soon as you wake up) have been the most useful tool and practice.
posted by mochapickle at 2:14 PM on January 10, 2014

Read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and pay special attention to the Introduction and the chapters: "Shitty First Drafts" and "Perfectionism." That book is worth gold to creatives.
posted by amoeba at 2:33 PM on January 10, 2014

I am a creative type, a perfectionist and into mindfulness meditation, and after hearing a segment on NPR, I read The Willpower Instinct and gleaned some really useful strategies for breaking up my goals (artistic and otherwise) into doable tasks and plugging away, which is my bread and butter. I am a pianist and was able to tackle some very complex work due to having built up the stamina and day-by-day work habits to accomplish significant things. When I am in a foul mood and thinking "Shiiiit" on the way to the piano bench, I just make myself sit for 10 minutes to get a 5 measure passage. Then it always snowballs into an hour more once I've sat down and just started.

Work on your mindfulness/meditation practice and apply it during your practice/creative-work times to notice what you are believing about perfection or how things "should" or "need" to be, or what the outcome of your project might mean for your identity/ego. (This was a big piece of it for me.) I really think perfectionism is the enemy of creative realization.
posted by mermily at 5:51 PM on January 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also one more little thing. You mentioned a lot of different fields that you are into. For me, I got a lot more done when I committed to one big area that I wanted to grow in and just allocated the time for that one thing in a dedicated manner. It's easier to feel some sense of efficacy when I identify as a pianist versus someone interested in poetry, guitar playing, painting and photography. I still dabble in a few other things (like drawing) but it's helpful for me to have partitioned out what is straight dabbling (just for fun) and what is a serious endeavor I'm taking on and willing to put in the grunt work for.
posted by mermily at 5:59 PM on January 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

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