Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Information overload

I used to be a health magazine junkie. Every week I'd go to the grocery store and buy a Shape, or a Fitness or a Women's Health, the latter being my favorite. I 'd devour the exercises, try the receipes, and read all the tips.

Then it got to be overwhelming. Every article seemed to have a different opinion on what was the best way to get toned triceps or a flat stomach. Should you only do cardio or add in strength, and how much lifting should you do? These food fight cancer, but they might cause heart problems. Don't eat this if your diabetic but it will help your kidneys. Finally I had to stop buying them and just work out and eat the way that worked best for me.

I've been reading a lot lately about how you have to read craft books if you want to learn to write properly, and while I agree that's good and super duper important. I think you can also get bogged down in all the advice, steps to follow, and ways to write your book. Eventually you just need to figure out what works best for you.

What do you think? How much information is too much and do you think you'll ever reach that point?

19 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

Overload for me is when there is a checklist with 50 questions on it. I skip them. Give me a list with 10 every day. And as far as craft books, I think it depends where a writer is at. Reading one here and there to improve on a weakness you know you have can be perfect timing. But it still always comes down to being able to apply it and that just takes practice.

Colene Murphy said...

I agree. You have to seek information in moderation and only from resources you trust. Lots of writing books out there contradict one another, so you have to be careful what you take in! Which is kinda sad, really.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

I agree. I have a hard time reading a lot of craft books. I tend to only read them in moderation, and even then I feel like it's too much. I think if you're having a problem with a certain thing you should pick up a book and read a little about it at a time. Then go back and fix what you've done wrong. I just don't have time to overwhelm myself with reading several books on writing. Too much to process, and it sort of throws of my creativity. I'm a "write by the seat of my pants" writer, so I don't have a lot of lists and stuff to write down. It stresses me out when I do.

....Petty Witter said...

I think we can have too much information and especially with health matters it can be confusing. Take for example eggs which one time were public enemy number 1 (food poisoning and too much cholestrol)and yet know we are informed that they can actualy be good for you. Still, I suppose it all comes down to all things in moderation.

Heidi Willis said...

So true!! I feel the same!!

I decided over a year ago to stop reading all the "do this but don't do that" information on writing.

Then I went and signed up for classes. Go figure. But at least the faculty is very much about what works for you and not, "DON"T DO THIS OR YOU WILL NEVER GET PUBLISHED."

I appreciate that. Being yourself is so important. Otherwise every book would sound the same.

(and if you look at the big best-sellers and the award winners, most of them - with the exception of people like James Patterson - do their own thing and break the rules.)

....Petty Witter said...

PS I hope you don't mind if I run with this idea and expand upon it on my blog.

Angela Felsted said...

It's easy to get overloaded with advice. I prefer to concentrate on what I do right these days rather than what I do wrong.

Jenn Johansson said...

My own personal opinion?... just keep writing. Yes, here and there the books can be good to focus you or learn new techniques, but nothing will help you improve your skill as much as just continuing to write.

Monica B.W. said...

Totally right!!
They say adverbs are the devil, then they say they are good for voice. They say show versus tell, then they say telling sometimes quickens the pace! I think in the end, as you said, you have to go with what makes sense to your writing ;)
And I think it doesn't hurt to read a lot about the craft of writing, as long as you remain true to yourself, right? :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Such a good point, Patti! I have to read craft books slowly and over time. I think they are very beneficial, but overload can happen so easily when we cram. :-)

Dara said...

It's good to read craft books but it can be info overload. I tend to read them when I think I need a bit of refresher. I personally like the "Write Great Fiction" series.

Carolyn V said...

I know what your talking about! (On both the exercising tips and writing tips.) I think sometimes you have to learn about the craft and then just write. Trying to do too much just makes a story weak (just because I've done that before).

Melissa Marsh said...

Absolutely. Too much information can be detrimental in just about anything in life.

I had a writer friend tell me once, after I'd bought yet ANOTHER book on the craft of writing, that I needed to quit READING about writing and actually start WRITING. :-)

....Petty Witter said...

Stopping by to let you know I mentioned you in todays post - I do hope you don't mind.

http://pettywitter.blogspot.com/2011/03/information-overload-ode-to-patti-and.html

ali said...

I couldn't agree more, Patti. And you know? I've only read a few such writing books and even then I skim a lot of them. Sometimes it's only as helpful as discovering what rules you want to break, lol.

Kasie West said...

Yes, I agree. I think reading in general is more important than reading 'how to write' books, but maybe that's just me. I think there is so much conflicting advice that you just have do what's right for you.

Melissa said...

This is so true. I read a few craft books when I first started writing and I got overwhelmed at the contradicting advice in them. The only one I read recently that helped me was Save the Cat, and I only got that after reading tons of blog posts talking about how helpful it was. And Kasie is so right - reading in general is one of the best things you can do to learn more about writing.

Lynn said...

I agree. The information can be over-whelming. One good thing about taking a class is the instructor usually focuses on one text book or resource for learning the material. Authors I've heard speak advise to read, read, read the genre you are writing, or just good writing and, almost like osmosis, you begin to know how to write well yourself, with practice and discipline.

Terri Tiffany said...

I take them in small chunks--read one and then not again for months--I love to experiment with how I write too!