Too Many Choices Stops the Choosing, or, How We End Up Doing Nothing Because We Can Do Everything

The internet is the ultimate in potential for choice paralysis. Endless reading, gaming, shopping, viewing. It’s amazing and wonderful to have such bounty available. But it’s in our limitations that we find not only creative ways to solve our problems, but also a certain comfort.

When we have too many options, we spend time deciding among them. It’s time that could have been spent working on your thing, or enjoying some other art. Sometimes, the overwhelming nature of possible things to do makes us shut down and just spend our time with the familiar. Films we’ve seen a dozen times, music we could sing along to in our sleep. That’s fine. But when we say we want to try new things, it helps to have fewer options.

I don’t, unfortunately, have a consistent methodology for narrowing internet choices, but I think it’s probably worth working on, if even in a deliberate, manual, conscious way.

Discriminating

Clickbaity title, I freely admit, but I’m specifically talking about the picking-and-choosing-things kind of discrimination, not concerning people.

My friends and I were talking about the firehose of media, which is, of course, a rather definitive first world problem of having way too much available for one person to take in. Nobody can possibly keep up with all the TV shows, nor movies, nor books, nor podcasts, nor music being churned out. And beyond that, there are blogs, vlogs, streams, and comics (both web and dead tree). Never mind all the bleeding video games I can’t even start.

We make our choices of the most appealing media to consume and favor, and have to chuck a big portion of the rest. But recognizing this isn’t sad, it means we have to value our time and our attention. While social media companies are trafficking in that very attention, it’s time to reconsider how precious and limited it is.

You’re worth taking a stand for the things you enjoy and eschewing what you don’t. The things we then choose become commensurately more valuable, themselves.

Too Much to See

There’s too much stuff out there to experience it all. Every day brings a new pile of media, films, videos, TV series, books, music, podcasts—we’re drowning in it all, often happily. But we rarely talk about having to choose a narrow slice of the seams-bursting pie.

Whether we know it or not, we’ve made a choice about how much of what kind of media we’ve taken in, and we’ll continue to do so as long as our access to media (or content, if you like), remains a flood, ever rising and widening.

The kinds of things we choose should always contain a bit of the type of work we strive to create ourselves. It’s useful to see what’s come before, what fellow artists are making now, and, if we’re lucky, a bit of insight into how they made the thing that is capturing our attention.

We have to make another choice as artists: to consume less and give time to our own making. The flood doesn’t stop, and nor should we, so long as we have waters that are sincerely drawn and uniquely ours.


NOTE: Thinking about the water metaphor, I can see there could be a long series of posts exploring the symbolism of it: good, bad, and, well, innuendo-laden.

Abandonment

Basically, it’s better to do than to not do. But there are exceptions.

Sometimes something just isn’t working. It’s sometimes better to stop that and do something else, start on a different idea. Finishing isn’t always the best option if it stops you moving to another project that flows.

But there’s always a paradox to resolve: do I need to stop working on this piece because it’s not working, or is it not working because I just want to start a new piece?

Continuing a little too long on something to be sure it isn’t going to work might be the only way to tell. But you’ll be able to.