PBA and I are close friends. Known to those of you who are only marginal acquaintances as Paralysis By Analysis. Also known as overthinking.
Some of you might not know what I am talking about. Other fortunate souls might know the concept as an intellectual exercise but not really understand it in a visceral way. To those people, I have this to say: I hate you. Further, you might consider taking a pass on my blog this time; this probably won’t be your favorite article to read unless you simply want to derisively mock the rest of us. In that case, welcome. I hate you.
Those of us who are in the inner circle of PBA’s friends, you’ll know what I mean. The drive to research and analyze. The NEED to know everything possible about a topic before making a decision. The overwhelming compulsion to not make a mistake, waste precious resources or look like an idiot. You will understand it so well I probably don’t even need to continue writing, but I will anyway. I apologize.
It all makes sense, eventually
For clarity’s sake, I want you to know that I am capable of making decisions. In fact, I can make really good decisions. I just need to do a little research first and consider all the possibilities and consequences. Ad nauseum. Over and over again, forever and ever, amen. Sure, opportunities have long passed by the time I make my very correct and well considered decision, but I made it, and it was good! That counts for something, right?
I can make quick decisions too. Why, just the other day I was about to join a Zoom call for a live directed recording session and I was able to decide not to join without clothes on. It only took ten or so minutes of careful consideration to figure out that causing extreme nausea and/or scaring one’s clients to death wouldn’t be considered a solid business decision. Being ten minutes late to said Zoom call also would come under the heading of poor business practice, but you can’t have everything.
Some considerations aren’t as easy. For instance, I’ve decided that I will never use a CRM (Customer Relationship Management app). Why, you ask? Is it because I spent hour after hour researching online, analyzing sales materials, comparing features and pricing and getting feedback from current customers, then putting all of the information into a color coded spreadsheet only to determine I don’t really need a CRM after all?
No. Sadly, no.
It is a fact that with my lame record keeping skills I will be inviting certain business disaster if I don’t have one. No, I must sheepishly admit that the problem is that I have spent hour after hour researching, considering and analyzing to the point where I am unable to decide. PBA.
If Paralysis By Analysis isn’t considered a disease, it should be. In using “PBA” I have even created a tidy little acronym for it so the medical community will accept it as official disease like COPD, ACL or NRA.
Are we talking about VO?
So what does this have to do with voice-over? After all, this is the TL;DR VOICE-OVER blog, right? Did I forget? Thank you for your concern about my mental health, but no I did not. While we are on the subject, I can’t tell you how mentally twisted I became while choosing a name for my blog. Up for consideration were fabulous names like “The Miraculous Voice-Over Blog of Paramount Importance”, “Jon’s Jumble of Genuine Junk And Other J Sounds Blog” and the “You Can’t Beat This Blog With a Stick, Unless You Hit Your Computer Screen, But That Would Be Stupid So Don’t Do It Blog”. I am sure you can see why I had such a hard time deciding.
In the end, my wife inadvertently named the blog for me when I asked her to edit and proofread a post and she said “Nobody is going to read this, it’s too long!”. She is normally an excellent editor, so I am not sure why she was so far off on this particular point.
Since deciding on a name, three different people have suggested that I rename it because either the name has a negative implication, or because people will choose not to read it because it sounds like it is too long, or because the name is false, since it is not in fact too long, as evidenced by the fact they have actually read it all the way through. I’m not sure I believe that last one, but in any case I have begun to question the decision I made.
It is bad enough to take an overabundance of ground up mental and emotional meat and forcefully cram it into little, stale, decision making casings, without having others coming along and calling everything into question by casually mentioning that my sausage sucks. To tell someone like me, right after making a decision, that I need to reconsider said decision is tantamount to congratulating an alcoholic on their sobriety by offering them a drink. The thinking, overthinking and rethinking continue.
Hi, I’m Jon. I am an overthinker.
In the booth, overthinking can be a big challenge. I have been told many times that I need to be more efficient. Read the copy, make my decisions, record it, then go on to the next one. We all know it is a numbers game. To do a lot of auditions, you have to be efficient.
I understand all of this, but . . . do I decide to read the copy as myself or as an imaginary persona? Do I read it the way I think is best, the way the written spec calls for, or the way I think the client really wants it? The spec calls for a conversational read, but is that intellectual conversational, blue collar conversational or pillow talk conversational? Do I use a flat read, an expressive read or somewhere in between? What pace? What intensity? Age? Smile? Level of formality? One take or two? Slate or not slate? Should I raise or lower my pitch? What if I decide to do A, but they want B? What does Mid-Atlantic sound like anyway??
The more I think about it, the more I think I should do more research. There are so many things to consider and so many repercussions to making the wrong choice!
Then of course, after I decide, I am unilaterally certain I’ve made the wrong decision, which causes me to rethink it.
The other day I was thinking about thinking and overthinking, trying not to overthink the thoughts I was thinking about thinking and overthinking. What is thinking versus overthinking? When does thinking cross the line into overthinking? Of course I must think about what I am doing, but without letting myself go into Overthinking Mode, but while I am thinking about not overthinking I have already overthunk! There is a lot of thinking to do. Or not do.
After much deliberation, some psychological counseling and a liberal application of prescription medication left over from my back surgery I came to this conclusion: Thinking=good, overthinking=bad.
We must find the balance that allows us to think, but not overthink. Unfortunately, in trying to rid myself of my overthinking habit I have often gone too far the other direction and opted for dart throwing just to make a choice. It should go without saying, but that’s a poor way to decide, not to mention a poor way to stay in the good graces of your partner if they find all the little holes in the wall. Furthermore, why is it that whenever anyone says “it goes without saying”, it is immediately followed by them saying it anyway? Can’t they decide?
So, yes, there is a connection to voice-over. Whether you call it overthinking, Paralysis By Analysis, or as my wife says, “Your idiot way of thinking”, this debilitating condition can get in the way of performance, client relationships and day-to-day business.
So, how do we deal with it?
I have a few suggestions, but I won’t blame you if you decide not to use them, or if you can’t decide whether or not to use them, or if you are wondering if when you can’t decide whether or not to use them and are paralyzed into inaction whether or not you have unintentionally made a decision. Here is my list of Miraculous Tips of Paramount Importance:
Number 1: Stop it!
Number 2: Don’t start doing it again!
You’re welcome. Glad I could help.
No, seriously, here is what I am learning to use to help myself:
Number 1: Set a time limit to decide. If you can stick to it, this will force you out of your bad mental habits. Give yourself a certain (brief) amount of time for research, deliberation, etc., make your best guess and move on.
Number 2: When caught between options of seemingly equal value, add extra weight to the side of your first impulse. Often our first thought is our best.
Number 3: Try not to second guess yourself after deciding. It’ll help if you plan ahead for this. Distraction works well. Choose in advance a distracting mental picture to focus on when the doubts creep in, like pumpkin pie or alien autopsies. Just don’t take too much time deciding between them.
Number 4: To help rewrite your harmful thought patterns, recite this affirmation to yourself every day, “I am a confident and competent thinker. I don’t need to know everything about a subject and all the implications before making a decision. My instincts are reliable. My choices are good”.
Number 5: Bourbon.
To be clear, if you are an alcoholic, I do not recommend number 5, even if you are celebrating your sobriety. I have heard that exercise works just as well but I can’t speak to that, never having tried it.
There is hope
Whether or not you decide to follow my sage advice, more than anything else I want you to know that if you are also an intimate of PBA as I am, you are not alone. In fact, I have applied for a non-profit charter for the new organization, Overthinkers Anonymous so we can come together in support groups across the land to lift each other up and challenge each other to new, healthy heights of decision making, provided any of us can decide to go. Or when to go. Or where. Or . . .
I have also written a formal letter of request to the publishers of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders asking for future inclusion as a recognized disease. When they approve this addition, as logic dictates they must, no longer will we have to quiver in dark corners afraid of what others will think as we go into paralyzing seizures when trying to make decisions. “It’s a disease!” we will exclaim. “I can’t help it!” we’ll cry. Then treatments will emerge to free us from the shackles of the never-ending swirl of questions in our tortured minds.
Oh, the freedom we will feel! We will lift our heads from our endless Google searching to wonder what that bright glowing orb in the sky is. We will cast off the heavy shroud of oppressive internal expectations to allow ourselves to make mistakes. Free to be who we are, we will live naked and unafraid. Unless we are going into a Zoom meeting, then we’ll skip the naked part. Please.