Week 0 : Maker paralysis and why I'm doing the ship therapy challenge.
Bootstrapping ShipTherapy Challenge 10 months ago

Photo by Ben Cliff on Unsplash

I've been an indie maker before I even knew what an indie maker was. I made stuff for school, for friends, and since 2013, I've been making stuff for groups of paying customers. Thanks to my habit of making, I've been able to sustain a decent living for myself and my family through the past 5 years while enjoying the freedom of doing whatever I wanted at any given time.

Here's the thing though, for the past 12 months, I haven't been able to make anything worth mentionning. I built a dozen half assed projects, that I never launched or shared with anyone else. I wrote a bunch of articles on bootstrapping and startups, but never published any. I even took a great job opportunity and quit a month later.

At first, I thought it was just a phase, but now it seemed like I have contracted what I call Maker Paralysis, which is like the equivalent of writer's block for makers.

The symptoms and causes of maker paralysis

I'm not sure if other people have struggled with something similar, but here are the symptoms that I have observed in myself during 2018 :

  • Constantly jumping from idea to the next

  • Building projects up to the 30% - 40% completion mark and then deleting everything.

  • Conjuring up reasons to abort projects without any testing :

    • "This can't scale"

    • "There's too much competition"

    • "This can't be monetized"

    • "This guy is already doing this"

    • "This is too big for me"

    • "This is too small for me"

    • "This will take too much time"

    • "This takes too little time, anyone can do it"

  • Anxiousness, constant mood swings and mild depression.

  • Loss of motivation.

  • Boredom

As for what caused this, I can't pinpoint one specific reason, but if I had to guess, I'd say that it has a lot to do with the comfort that comes with having a good enough revenue without doing much. I guess complacency is the downside of passive revenue.

Combine that with a tendency for perfectionism, some fear of rejection, and you're stuck in an endless loop of brainstorming, building and deleting stuff, and then getting depressed about it.

I did try a bunch of things to get out of this loop, some helped me move forward, others didn't, but ultimately none fixed my issue permanently :

  • Changing my work environment a few times : Didn't help.

  • Traveling to the other side of the world : Gave me hope and motivation.

  • Hiring people to maintain existing projects so that I can focus on new ones : Didn't help.

  • Learning about pyschology : Provided me with tools to diagnose and repair parts of myself.

  • Re-reading books that I loved as a teenager : Helped me reconnect with my inner kid / maker.

  • Stopped browsing IH, PH, Twitter and similar communities for a month : It helped me focus on myself and stop comparing myself with others ( who obviously had their shit together ).

A practical plan to overcome maker paralysis

Considering how this paralysis is affecting all other areas of my life, overcoming it and being able to ship stuff again has become my number one priority. So I'm going all in, and this is where the ship therapy challenge comes in.

The challenge is inspired by the 12 startups in 12 months challenge, but modified to fit my condition : Instead of shipping 12 startups over a year, I'm committing to ship at least one new product every two weeks, while writing about the process and progress once a week.

There is no time limit, but if everything works out and I'm ready to tackle bigger projects, I might switch the two weeks period to a one month period. Right now, I feel like two weeks is a good enough timeframe to force me to ship something small yet complete.

That's basically it, I don't want to set any additionnal constraints to keep things as simple as possible. The point is to just get started, start small and ship ship ship.

Photo by Mikito Tateisi on Unsplash

The therapeutic powers of shipping

Can shipping be therapeutic ? It definitely looks like it.

From a psychological standpoint, forcing yourself to ship small products is very similar to exposure therapy, which is used in treating all kinds of anxiety disorders by exposing the patient to the anxiety source gradually until he can overcome his anxiety.

Will it work ? I hope so, I'll make sure to keep you posted.

You can follow up on my journey of overcoming my self-diagnosed maker paralysis through shipping by subscribing to the newsletter below.

If you're struggling with similar issues or just want to chat, feel free to reach out to me on twitter.


Update : ➡️ Check out week 1 of the challenge.

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