This is an excerpt of the book Processing Creativity: The Tools, Practices And Habits Used To Make Music You’re Happy With. If you would like to download an excerpt or buy a copy you can do so here.

Analysis paralysis is a particularly tricky affliction to navigate. If it’s a regular occurrence, you're probably suffering from self-doubt and need to do some research or gut analysis of what feels right in your heart. The most common cases stem from having to make a big decision coupled with a lack of confidence in knowledge on how to make that decision. On a macro level, when coaching musicians through it in the past, I talk to them about who they’d like to be as an artist and what type of decision that artist would make. Reverse engineering how you can be confident in your decision is crucial since deciphering what would be beneficial about each path makes you more prepared when a choice must be made. This results in solidifying your intent since it’s the best guide to avoid this troublesome paralysis. You then need to start creating again; the only way this affliction subsides is by committing to a decision.

Phased Decision Making - On a more micro level, options need to be whittled down over time by doing some batch decision-making. If there are five directions for a vocal you can't decide between, get it down to three and the next week get it down to one. If there's an unclear decision between two key elements, make a decision and if it still annoys you weeks later, revisiting with a different mind will usually give your thoughts clarity.

Giving Up - Analysis paralysis commonly occurs at the end of a project where uncompleted songs are left hanging to avoid making a crucial but confusing decision. Further consideration of what best reinforces intent and resonance is the only way to consider this. Time away can help regain objectivity to make that decision, but don’t give up during a tight deadline; employ outside ears to consider the decision after hearing your intent.

Your Lifeline

 Just as the show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire has illustrated for years, occasionally we hit a point where we've either lost perspective or don't know what to do. Perhaps democracy has broken down or you've lost perspective and the only way to regain it is from trusted ears. You need an outside opinion whose thoughts may help us come to a decision. The "lifeline" on the show is a person you can call who’s not on the stage that can help you get through a tough, paralyzing choice. Once you hear from this trusted person, you usually regain objectivity by knowing whether to trust your instincts or not.

Throughout my life, I've collected friends I can turn to for various dilemmas. Producer friends constantly shoot mixes back and forth when we've been working on a song for too long or received feedback on a song that's perplexing us. You should find someone outside of who you regularly make music with who can help give you perspective. Keeping these lifelines in mind can save your songs. Throughout post-mortem album interviews, you hear that musicians let their friends listen to songs to set them back on course. Sadly, they probably won't make you a millionaire by answering a question.

Putting Together A Record And What’s Presently Resonant

One of the toughest parts of putting together which songs go on a record, as well as their order, is judging them by their quality versus which ones you’re currently excited about. The songs that are oldest in the process can often be strong, but since they're old, they feel less resonant than they used to. In my last book, I argued that it helps to have outsiders give an objective perspective on choosing singles as well as an album's order. Since the artist, producer and other team members have heard so many iterations of a song by the end of the album, perspectives can be skewed, favoring the most recent material since it’s more resonant.

Musicians often employ outside ears due to loss of perspective from constantly feeling their latest material is their greatest. Producer Bob Ezrin has done this for both Pink Floyd and Nine Inch Nails. Rick Rubin is famous for helping prolific artists like Kanye West with this qualm. More often than not, musician’s reach out to trusted ears to get outside feedback for confirmation on whether the material they favor is truly their best. 

This is an excerpt of the book Processing Creativity: The Tools, Practices And Habits Used To Make Music You’re Happy With. If you would like to download an excerpt or buy a copy you can do so here.