The anxiety of choice

In all forms of creativity – and truly in many aspects of my life – I tend to have bouts of what has been called “Choice anxiety.” In short, I'm overwhelmed by options, immobilizing my ability to make a decision. It’s especially a problem I have with art. If I'm put on the spot or start to demand something of myself,  I creatively freeze before I can complete a thought or proceed othwerise. In my case, it also stumps me when ordering food and picking what I should watch on Netflix.

While being indecisive about ordering food isn’t a terrible hindrance in life, the same anxiety has been a serious issue when it comes to my graduate work. Being unable to decide what direction to go with photography is not only frustrating, but also creates serious issues when trying to pursue and M.F.A. Though I’m making some progress with this, it’s still something I would like to improve on.

I like to think it’s an overactive imagination and wealth of curiosity that creates the issue. With so many options and ideas, I just can’t figure out what to do with myself. I think this might be a part of it, but I also know another element is anxiety about making the wrong decision. I know this is certainly an issue with art. Being wrong or failing is difficult, and avoiding it is highly desirable.

And so, the worst words anyone can say to me are, “do anything you want.”

The video above actually sums up the basic idea nicely (except I'm not so jaded against capitalism). I’m not crippled in life, but I see the influence of this anxiety through many aspects of my existence.

One method of coping with this is to give myself early deadlines, or merely just to procrastinate until something has to be done. The pressure can create less time to think about what to do, and it can create the urgency to do it despite any misgivings. The procrastination route tends to be more destructive than helpful in the end, but the early deadline approach can be quite useful.

Just like I’ve found a few adventurous moments of trying certain food to create a future reference helps when ordering food, I’ve begun to understand what helps me create art. I’ve begun to realize I won’t be trapped with decisions, or won’t be inferior if I fail. I realized the world won’t end if others aren’t happy with my decisions, or if I make decisions I regret after all.

In writing, as it is with art – and life – it pays to just keep moving ahead while not worrying so much.