How Writers Can Avoid ‘The Paralysis of Analysis’

The ‘paralysis of analysis’ is a term I once heard from a teacher who was lecturing on the pitfalls to avoid in your study and work habits. As I entered the workforce, I found that the term was extremely useful to remember and a habit to try to avoid at all costs.

The term refers to the habit of trying to solve a problem and spending so much time analyzing the problem that you simply stop making any progress in solving it or completing the task at hand.

People who are perfectionists in their work habits are particularly susceptible to this habit. Perfectionists spend an inordinate of time getting their work ‘just so’ regardless of whether the level of perfection will even be noticed by the recipients of the work.

Writing from a perfectionist’s viewpoint can be as damaging to your career as writing badly. Once you achieve a certain level of writing that gives you the confidence to write professionally, you have to be extra careful to avoid developing a perfectionist attitude that will lead to sliding into the ‘paralysis of analysis’ zone.

As a professional writer, your value is often measured just as much by how fast you can complete an assignment as how well you can write. A writer who writes well but slowly can be a hindrance to a company or client.

I’ve put together a short list 5 of simple ways that you can avoid the paralysis of analysis, keep your writing on track and increase the speed in which you finish assignments.

1) Know You Want to Write Before You Start Writing

The way to get sucked into the vortex of inertia is by trying to come up with something to say about your topic while you’re in the process of writing. Know what you want to say before you start writing and just say it. If you’re unsure about your topic you’ll get into a vicious circle of constant rewriting.

2) Write Simply

A lot of writers got into writing because they see it as a creative outlet. When you’re writing professionally, you have to put your creativity second and the requirements of the assignment first. The best writing is the writing that is easy to read and engages the reader.

3) Don’t Rely on Metaphors and Similes

A clever metaphor or simile can work wonders when you’re trying to explain a difficult concept. However, cluttering up your writing with them can lead to confusion and a lack of understanding. Stopping to think of another clever way to phrase something wastes your time and leads you off-topic.

4) Don’t Create Problems

Don’t get in the habit of second-guessing your writing or your opinions. You’ve been hired based on your abilities and past work. If other people value what you have said in the past and you’ve been hired based on that, respect their judgment. Don’t dither about worrying whether your writing has any relevance. Write with confidence and don’t create problems in your mind regarding your writing. It’s self-destructive and unproductive.

5) Use the First Solution that Occurs to You

This is one of the main things I’ve learned about avoiding the process of over-analysis. If you run into a problem, use the first solution you can think of and then move on. Don’t spend time trying to think of a ‘best’ solution to the problem. You’ll end up never finishing the assignment that way.  If something better occurs to you later, you can always go back and change it. If nothing else occurs to you, then you arrived at the correct solution in the first place.

Develop Professional Work Habits

The bottom line is, if you want to spend time staring at the wall while you over-analyze your writing, write a book.

Writing professionally means that you have to develop a different mind-set than writing for your own enjoyment. Above all, you have to put the client’s needs first and the particular assignment you’re working on second. Your ego comes way down the list of what’s important from the client’s viewpoint.

Learn to know when ‘good enough’ can be applied to your assignment. If you’re a good writer, then ‘good enough’ is probably a lot better than you give yourself credit for. Refusing to turn in an assignment because you want to give it one more polish can be the death-knell to your writing career.

You have to learn to ‘let go’ of your assignments. Proofreading your work is when a lot of writers are susceptible to the paralysis of analysis.

If you’ve said what you want to say, you should be proofreading for typos and grammar only and not nit-picking your content. Don’t be afraid to put that assignment in an email and press the ‘send’ button. Your career will thank you for it.

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