OOP: Overthinking Overcomplicating Perfectionism, and other bad creative habits

Some people think OOP stands for Object Oriented Programming but that’s peanuts compared to the real problem: Overthinking Overcomplicating Perfectionism. I’m combatting a life-long habit of overthinking and overcomplicating things. It’s a bad bad habit :confounded:

How to find a balance between being paralysed with perfectionism and keeping certain standards of quality? It’s a fine line I think, although, maybe quality will be subjective for the most part anyway?

What are your protocols to be inspired, keep a nice output flow, be happy with what you produced. Any golden rules out there?

**
I made this “patch diary” video yesterday and I hope to output these more regularly than my bad bad habit normally allows for. I got the Planar 2 in the mail and I patched it up with the Matriarch real quickly, filmed it and produced the video. Took me a few hours in total, which is a step in the right direction I think.

I edited the video… I couldn’t help it. I need help, help me. :laughing:

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Great idea for a thread. I have to confess that I am guilty in regard of overthinking, overcomplicating and perfectionism.

My solution is: working very fast and trying to let things fragmented…
This helps for a while, … until I have to sort things out for a project or an album

to be continued…

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This is so me oh wow… I can barely even make anything because of the nature of a work in progress not being good until it’s done. I have ADHD and that is definitely a big part of it.

I try to focus on making music that has more immediate gratification, is more intuitive and sounds good even while it’s in progress. For me, a lot of modular ambient music can be that, and while traditional sequencers aren’t ideal I find the feedback and intuitive nature of monome devices had made a huge difference to that too.
I also don’t use multitracking or any daw. I make the sounds and record it in one take, then it’s done, and that helps avoid the over thinking and self criticism at the heart of perfectionism. It is wait it is, and it’s good.

I would love to do more songwriting with drum parts and bass parts and written lyrics and choruses with electronic music like I used to in bands but I can never ever get past the skeletal demo stage that that sort of writing requires, because the demo never sounds good! So I’ll stick to experimental and ambient, it suits my skills in intuitive immedacy much better. I think in general, I am much worse with OOP when making music that is not the best fit for my workflow in the first place.

EDIT:
Also had the thought, based on Instagram based projects like drawtober where you get a prompt every day for a month and you have to create something and share every day. If you Google ‘writing prompts month’ you can find lists of pretty abstract prompts to interpret. Especially on Instagram with the 1 minute video cap and focus on direct from phone content rather than polished tracks and edited videos, could be a good way to force yourself out of perfectionism and even keep up on daily patch diaries. :slight_smile:

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I have the same bad habit. (Currently I’m in the process of finishing a short film that has been with me since… I don’t know… around 10-15 years!)
So I’ve started to publish music videos regularly (1-2 per week), trying to not thinking too much. My hope was that these videos helped me to fight against this bad habit. But not. At least, I’m having fun doing them.
So keep a nice output flow is easy. The hardest part is being happy with what you produced. I haven’t achieved. I don’t have any advice.

Nice Moog Matriarch video, by the way!

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I was about to respond to this, but then started to formulate the post in my head, and decided to keep it on the backburner until I get something proper out.

SO YEAH count me in. Ready to heal. Great topic.

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So I should probably start with an disclaimer that I am not an professional musician so take my advices with a grain of salt :wink:

I think you get “perfect” things not by working on one thing for a year but by working on a lot of things in the same time span. By practicing (and failing while doing so) you gain muscle (and brain ;)) memory which allows you to perform things faster/better next time.

I also feel like playing improvised music can help in that regard that you learn to accept where song is going even if it deviates from your original plan. Don’t mourn the songs that should have been and that sound that you had in your head, but rather enjoy what it became :wink:

What we also need to keep in mind when comparing our output to others is that often other people have separate people to do video editing, master the song etc. Even in a band it is much easier to come up with a song where you have other musicians reacting in a lively manner to what you are playing.

TLDR: do a lot of things, fail often, fail quickly and don’t fret too much

Practical things you can do:

  • pariticipate in disquiet junto
  • participate in jamuary (short songs every day) even if it is not jamuary
  • try for some time to have rule to not get back to previous project if they were started more than week ago
  • try to focus on one thing - if you are making song don’t think about video that will accompany it, if you are doing sound design don’t fret too much about composition, just create some sounds and sample them - then when doing the song you don’t need to focus on sound design
  • don’t be afraid to use patches that others have created - acoustic instruments also have preprogrammed sound and nobody bothers
  • create a DAW project template with end of chain/sends effects already in place
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Also a phenomenon I experience that has been a roadblock for some time. I haven’t resolved it yet, but I find that for me personally a different approach to creating is working right now: “good enough.”

I know we are trained by society and professionals to never settle, and for me, that has become the pursuit of complex perfection, which ensures nothing is ever completed. My therapy (really) has been the Disquiet Junto prompts. Short window to receive a prompt and complete and submit/share a work and it has been super effective. An epiphany I had as a result of participating is that the goal of music is to compose something that meets a goal, whether that be communicating an idea or a feeling, and that can be achieved in as simple or complex a way as we choose.

I realized I’d been putting the cart before the horse and had been attempting to put together some complex flow/patch and then pursue something that could communicate what I wanted to.

I realize I speak as an amateur with no ep or album released yet (which has been a goal for two decades), but I’m finally in a place where I understand how to go about completing something. I’m working on the sounds and communication and will worry about mixing down the road.

Great topic—thanks for bringing this up! I’m very interested to read the insights of others here.

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This used to be me and I’m not 100% sure what happened, but it’s not me anymore.

At some point I stopped having any desire to be a successful musician and since then it’s been a much freer process for me. I’m less precious over my output.

Having 2 young kids means time is super limited, so I’m more than happy to make something I’m proud of rather than end up with nothing at all and nothing to look back on in the future.

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I’m currently experimenting with this approach. I think I used to intimidate myself by “I must make this " amazing piece of ART ™” every time I sit down to my instrument/DAW/etc. Now, my goal is to finish. That’s it. I must have fun and finish. Right now for me that’s simply having a WAV in my Masters folder for the project. My goal eventually is to do videos and maybe even a release, but finishing is the best way to get those reps in.

I also resonate with the “one thing at a time” – I think that’s been my biggest impediment to finishing.

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Insightful point

My problem is that i can work this way most of the time until i get more ambitious about planning a project. Then I overthink, stop making as much…and as a result i get stuck in a loop of planning and hesitating instead of making new things

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My lord. I feel seen. Thank you for posting this. I feel so often that my initial sketch, my first shot at a rhythm, my first tune of the knobs on a synth aren’t worth pursuing further. I will watch this and be hanging around this thread, because it is something I have dealt with since I was a child (literally didn’t speak till 3 years old and I could speak full sentences).

Creative endeavors for me, especially in sobriety have made been exceedingly difficult. I will be here, voicing some of my experience trying to move passed this (one of the reasons I returned to music after 10 year hiatus!).

Oddly, this does not afflict me in a professional sense in which I am more than capable of taking very serious risks and challenging myself without a care for years on end. Wonder what that is and how I could maybe spread the love… interesting food for thought. :thinking:

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I’m happy to see this is relevant topic and even more happy that we can discuss it. So many answers that I want to reply to!

This is an important point. I believe there is a culture of negativity in a very general sense. If we look at the Western education system, a place where a lot of our professional and personal neurosis are born, we can clearly see it is constructed around the idea of pushing the boundaries of human potential by telling you “it will never be enough”. In a way this is a very conscious sacrifice of personal happiness in favour of cultural and academic achievement. For us artists, this is further translated in the romanticizing of the image of the “tormented artist”, always searching, never resting. But for most people this is just a fast-track to burnout and depression.

Having kids definitely makes you re-evaluate time :laughing: And it has certainly exposed a problem I had all along for me, but also it reveals a way to finally solve it as well, exactly as you stated. Just pragmatically, it has taught me to set small goals and start projects that I can finish in one sitting, even though they can be part of a larger whole. This is a very gratifying way of working. I was all over the place before and I finished things once in a while, but a lot of energy was just wasted as well.

Keep the posts coming guys, I feel the time has come for all of us to all leave this stuff behind!

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This is a great topic that strikes home. Currently struggling my way out of this crippling way of approaching music.

My two cents:

  • Remove hindrances. Make recording things as simple as possible.

  • Meditate. Seriously. Mindfulness helps a lot with noticing that part of your brain that becomes super judgemental and is all negative about your output, among other things.

  • Don’t conflate your performing brain with your producing brain. Wear different hats! “What am I going to do with this?”, you might ask yourself. That’s a problem for another person, now you’re jamming.

  • Make small lists of doable stuff. Break it down to things you’re ok with doing. 10 minutes of doing something is much much better than waiting for the perfect moment. There is no perfect time, no ideal conditions.

Lots more to say on the subject. This issue has been holding me back forever. It’s real, but it can be overcome.

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Thanks for bringing up meditation!

It can seem counter-intuitive, but the experience usually is that you get more done when you consciously allocate time to “do nothing”

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I bring it up a lot. It has helped me immensely. I can’t overstate that.

We aren’t being taught how to use the most complex tool we have in our arsenal. There’s a lot of things going on in our heads and it’s important to start paying attention.

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So again this coming from a perspective of hobbist musician but I think planning most of the time is good for practicing but not so for making finished music. Maybe this comes from the fact that when playing guitar I had very distinct modes of playing - I was either learning other people compositions by playing them or making my own without practice in mind.
So for example if you want to do composition in a particular style I would go with practice mentality - so it is ok to outright copy someone else or end with result that you don’t like so much - the goal here is to learn building blocks of something else.
On the other side when making a song I try not to do a lot of planning, or at least be prepared to ditch all plans if composition starts to take other shape than planned.
This of course is useless if you are professional musician and was contracted to do composition in particular style but lucky enough this is a problem I have yet to face :smiley:

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I feel this in so many dimensions of my life, but with a particularly poignancy in my academic work(philosophy) and music.

I agree with the poster above who mentions the search for ideality through negativity at the core of Western pedagogical practices as being particularly aggravating for this kind of thinking. I recently hit a bit of a wall with my research, where I was really driving myself on this hyper-structured routine and feeling worse and worse. After going through a bit of a nervous breakdown, I made a concious decision to stop striving, to let go of that intense desire to be “the best”. I now realize that what I perceived to be energy and motivation was actually an feeling of generalized anxiety about my value, my place in the world, the meaning of my work and the lack of support I was feeling from the instutional context. In particular, I realized how engrained the value systems of the academic world were becoming in my own relationship to my practice, something which I think creates immense pressure for those who actually want to live philosophically, i.e with a deeper sense of value than the neo-liberal economy of scarcity allows. All that being said, after letting go of all the “productivity wisdom” I amassed during the pandemic, beginning to do my work with real pleasure rather than restrictive striving, I feel a certain sense of becoming unblocked. Things are constellating with more clarity than when I was pushing so hard.

I think in a way, things are slightly easier when it comes to music, though the pandemic has certainly made it more difficult to establish those horizontal, aneconomic connections amongst music makers and listeners. My music journey began with making beats for soundcloud when I was 18, and I kind of rode the lo-fi house wave to some very minor online sucess, followed by a couple year stint of underground djing to small-medium size crowds in Toronto. Despite really enjoying djing, my production taste and musical ear quickly outgrew my actual abiltiies and after my initial realases I felt utterly incapable of producing anything I was satisfied. I didn’t know what I wanted to make, all I wanted was to “create a product” to share with my “audience” . Before I even had a full arrangement I was trying to think about what label to send to, what other’s would think etc. I think a lot of this has to do with fantasy, of creative fantasies that support a certain idealization of what we think we would like to become as artists. I spent a couple of years opening ableton tracks, laying down sounds from the same sample pack, getting frustrated and closing it. Experimentation really stopped, which is perhaps the death-knell of perfectionism. I ended up taking a long break from producing music, and moving away from the scene I was involved in, which resulted in listening to a much larger variety of music (the first step towards unblocking).

Things only seriously began to release after two events: I met a friend who shared my tastes and had a beautiful attitude towards music. He is a self-taught sax player who just practices to hear himself make sound, which does not preclude an increasing technical mastery of the instrument. We began to jam together in a really unstructured way, just me playing loud ass synths and him riffing over top. I think this is perhaps one of the easiest ways to unblock with musical perfectionism: Find one person to show your sounds to, and make it just for them, just for the two of you to listen to and chat about. I think the internet exposes us to an quais-infinite, faceless audience, whose desires we are expected to be able to predict. Grounding your practice in an embodied, lived relationship is really helpful, though online communities like lines and other forums can have a similar effect.

The second thing that really opened me up was learning a new technique or “environment”/instrument. After years of daws, I started learning supercollider which I actually really click with. I think this really taught me a lot about sound, and programming, which has me thinking about music in a really different way. It was frustrating at first because you can’t make shit, but once you start to learn to think in a different way, those new pathways are doors to inspiration. I no longer am thinking about notes/beats/genres, but mathematical objects and concrete spectra.

I guess maybe one final thing to end. I feel a lot of my perfectionism comes from a kind of time blindness, where it feels like if this isn’t my masterpiece, then I’ll never make one. It feels like everything has to be sorted out now and anything less is failure. I think this comes from a primal fear of death, which, well-justified in a certain dimension, is unhelpful (and statistically unlikely). The ability to ride the waves of creativity, of connection and disconnection, of loss and clarity, of uncertainty proper, is perhaps the meta-practice of living that creative activity is the true training for.

Phew huge rant, I guess this touched on something!

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Meditation has helped me with this immensely:
it grows an acute sense in you of how to observe the ‘feelings’ that go along with ‘thoughts’. when i’m overthinking something, i can sense it right away these days by locating a tightness within my solar-plexus and heart area. the same thing can occur if i’m arguing with someone, or trying to make a point, or recalling some past trauma. it’s always some physical feeling i can locate in the body. as a result of removing myself from my mind in this way even for just a split-second, i can come back to the thing i was thinking about and realize which parts of that thing are actually important and which parts are just a small and insignificant ‘perceived’ threat to my ego.
most of the time, i find that my drive to think too much, comes from ego(‘i NEED to succeed at this’, ‘i NEED to be right about this’, ‘i NEED to figure this out because i’m smart, or because i deserve the reward of it’, etc. etc.). and the ego has an acute effect on the body. if i tune into the body(sometimes it’s hard so i just have to try harder by focusing my life around exercise more to get my physical body a bit more in tune), then i can control my mind better.

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Interesting topic.

For me this was a huge change in paradigm after I dip my toes in eurorack and monome stuff. There’s no need to have exact control over everything. Sometimes the more visceral works sounds better than the overwork one.

Yes, this is me right now. I had to use a calemdar and see what my free time was to make music, exercise, tinker, etc.

A minimalist approach on the broader sense is, I think, the most efficient way to achieve goals. Less stuff to do/ to use, more output. Less is more.
(Which is totally opposite of what I’m doing now. I want to make music, expand my 3d printing knowledge, learn supercollider, tinker with electronics, etc. So much dicotomy in one’s mind)

Yes, you need to clear your head first to have more , or any, output.

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To come to this understanding is a big step. So many things are confused for another thing altogether.

This is another aspect of the OOP problem: “raising the bar” and how to do it without blocking yourself. Personally, when I have completed a project, I have no problem of being proud and satisfied with the product I have delivered and I really get a lot of joy and satisfaction from this, but the next thing, I always want it to outshine the previous one so usually I take a long time to recover from successes rather than ride that wave.

Also important: the danger of categorizing and labelling experiences. Obviously, this is the main activity of the machine-readable world of the internet, that’s just how it functions. But we are human beings, and don’t have a direct experience of labels and categories. There is so much talk about products and audiences but it is hardly ever an immediate reality, especially online, like you said, a faceless audience. We are so eager to please the algorithms that the algorithm becomes the content.

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