Creative Analysis Paralysis – Who Needs It?

Posted on Posted in Motivation

Ever find yourself paralyzed in the face of fear? Ever find yourself stuck in your creative project? This post is for you.

Freedom is terrifying. Well, at least it can be. The cousin of freedom is responsibility. As you become a creator, you have to bear the simple truth that your actions have more direct consequences than they will for most people. Many people can defer culpability for their actions to their boss, their parent, or even their political leader. When you become a creator, the buck stops with you.

Responsibility is scary at first. It feels like a heavy sword that you’re not strong enough to wield. Your attempts to take responsibility can feel clumsy at best, or fake at worst.


Responsibility can feel like sitting in a throne with a sword on a thin string dangling over your head. Just ask Damocles.


Now sure, we all know that taking responsibility is good. We know that starting a business is good. We know that creating something meaningful and worthwhile that expresses what we feel inside is good. Yet there’s something that drags at us, the anchors on creators’ hearts.

Steven Pressfield called it “the resistance” in his book, the War of Art. Seth Godin calls it “the lizard brain” in Linchpin. The cartoonist behind the Oatmeal calls it “the Blerch.” Freud calls it the “death wish.”

It’s fear. Admitting that you’re afraid of freedom and responsibility is powerful. The act of admitting this is motivating and uplifting. It makes you smarter, too – more keen to your own internal struggles, more in tune with your emotions, and more readily able to see through your rationalizations and excuses.

This casts our struggles and failures in a whole new light. When you see fear as the root of some of your actions, things start making sense. Some creatives self-destruct with alcohol, drugs, and other vices. Some people give up and watch TV, take the boring job, or run away for the rest of their life traveling  – racking up cool experiences without facing their issues head-on.

Then you have folks like me. Some people stand in their fear like a deer in headlights. Hesitant. Waiting. Trying to think of the best solution, while doing nothing. In board games, we call this “analysis paralysis.” Just as a game can overwhelm you with options, so too can life itself. Self-styled intellectuals often fall into this trap.

Does this describe you? It describes me. Here’s what’s worked for me. I remind myself that I can’t think myself out of complex problems. I find it’s useful to think a little bit, try something new, and change my approach based on what I learn. I try to keep a constant push-pull dynamic of thinking and doing in my life.

Be wise and think about your actions, but don’t be afraid to make a leap when you’re stuck.

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