How to avoid information overload in an information saturated world isn’t easy.
In today’s world, we have all the information we want at our fingertips.
You want to know about Earnest Hemingway? Google it.
You need an idea for a new story? Google it.
The pipe broke under your kitchen sink? Well, all you need to do is Google a solution instead of calling a plumber.
It’s the age of instant information and fast answers to our problems.
But is it a good thing for writers?
If you’re like me and you love to research, then this post is for you.
Having a lot of instant information is great, isn’t it? Why isn’t it?
How much information is too much?
Are you stuck in the research phase of your story and can’t find your way past it?
Read on my friend. Read on.
What is information overload, and why isn’t it good?
Imagine yourself before the computer age. Let’s say around the early 1900s. You need to know more about the Earth. You live in a small town. There’s only one library and it only has one book on world geography. This makes you very happy. Why? Because you have easily found what you were looking for. There’s only one resource. It’s easy to understand. In a short time you have expanded your knowledge of the world.
Now, let’s come back to the present. Same need. Very different results.
Of course you want to know more about the Earth. Your friends have just arrive back from Africa and told you all about the giraffe’s and you’re dying to find out more for yourself without actually having to go there. You type in ‘giraffe’ into the Google search bar and a second later you are given thousands of pages of information from all over the world as well as photos and videos. It’s incredible!
But- what started out as a simple search, quickly turns into hours of study. You get lost in the descriptions from several different people. Watching the home movies of giraffes and their habitat is addictive. You can’t stop reading about their history and dietary needs. You’re stuck on the articles about hunters killing these majestic creatures. It goes on and on… and soon you are experiencing the dreaded information overload.
Learning about giraffes is great. And now you know all about them.
Let’s apply this to our writing shall we?
The trouble with too much information when writing.
You wanted to know how to write a short story. So you Googled it. Bam! The same thing happens. You are given so much information about short story writing that you spend hours looking through all the articles, blogs, instructables, videos and have even purchased an eBook on the subject. Your head is buzzing with information and by the time you actually sit down and start to write something, your mind goes blank. You’re tired. Your mind is whirling and can’t settle enough to write something on the page. The information you read is so plentiful that you don’t know where to start. You’re in overload. It’s totally overwhelming and you don’t write anything at all. Sound familiar?
I want to help you, dear writer, to avoid information overload.
How to cut through the clutter.
The secret to knowing how to avoid information overload is knowing exactly what your problem or question is.
Narrow your focus.
Instead of googling ‘How to write a short story’, perhaps searching for an individual element will be more helpful. For example: How to plot a short story or How to write the first paragraph of a short story will narrow your focus, avoid wading through a heap of information you’re not ready for yet, shorten the research time considerably and you’ll get it done.
Cut it short.
It takes time to find the right answer. Having too much information is a big time sucker. The best way to avoid the trap of searching for hours, is to first narrow your focus as above, then set a time limit. How simple or complex is your problem? If you have narrowed it down, then it shouldn’t take more than ten to thirty minutes to find what you’re looking for. If you haven’t by then, maybe you need to look at what the problem is again. It could need adjusting.
Limit your clicks.
To help you stick to a set time for research, set a limited number of sites you click on. The first page of any search is usually the best, so have a quick scan and a set number of websites you visit. You may just find the answer on the second or third one and won’t even have to look at the others. Time saver!
It’s so easy to get lost looking at vast amounts of information we think we need to be great writers. We lose time actually writing, which is the best way to improve. Being specific, narrowing our focus, setting time and search limits will enable you to improve and have plenty of time to put into practice what you’ve learnt.
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