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    Dealing with Information Overload: A Guide for Writers

    When I finally got online two years ago, I thought I had died and gone to writer's heaven. To me, the World Wide Web represented Paradise Found--writers guidelines, freelance job listings, ezines and e-books! So many opportunities, so little time.

    Cautiously at first, then with growing confidence, I got on my mouse and surfed. Found writers' Web sites, and Web sites for writers. Joined online writers communities where both moderators and members generously shared dozens and dozens of useful sites that they'd found during their own Internet travels. I gobbled them up like a ravenous pit bull with a bottomless stomach.

    I became a bookmarking fool. Granted, I figured out quickly how to set up folders, and used them faithfully, but my online file cabinet began to bulge at the seams. Can PCs explode from too much bookmarking? I just might be the first person to find out.

    Then one day, months into this gluttonous spree, I realized something. My writing had pretty much ground to a halt. Oh, I'd gathered of 7,243 (roughly!) places where I could publish my work, if in fact I had anything to publish...and there were all those sites where I could post my writer's resume, if I ever went back to them...and I had ideas galore for everything from columns and essays to a series of e-books, if I ever took time to develop them...

    Does my story strike a familiar chord with you? Welcome to the Land of Information Overload, where there exist SO MANY possibilities, SO MANY outlets, SO MANY ways to go, that you end up going nowhere.

    Eventually, it becomes easier to read about opportunities than to pursue them. And, if you want to, you can rationalize this reading and bookmarking addiction by calling it "research." You and I know what it *really* is. (Hint: It begins with a "P," and ends with "rocrastination.")

    But there's a way out of this Land. Not an easy one -- the Internet landscape is indeed mesmerizing, and fraught with danger. But the way out is this...Baby steps.

    You heard me. Get back to basics. Learn to crawl before you walk. Take...baby steps.

    You don't start an exercise regime by taking on the Boston Marathon. And you don't start a successful freelance writing venture by stockpiling ideas and markets, promising yourself that "someday" you'll pursue them ALL.

    No, you start by getting away from your computer screen for a little while. Grab an old-fashion pen and notebook (yes, a paper one!). Daydream. Doodle. Let your mind remember why you wanted to be a writer in the first place, and define what a "successful writing career" means to you.

    Then start jotting down some ideas about how to get from here to that vision of success. But keep those ideas small. Doable. Break the larger ideas into 15- or 30- minute tasks. Use your paper list as your guide, your yardstick. Consult it daily, add new tasks as they occur to you, and delete ones that no longer seem to inspire you.

    Eventually, you'll begin to realize what information you REALLY need when you hop back on the Web. That's when the compulsive site-gobbling stops, the information overload disappears, and the writing begins.

    Copyright © Mary Anne Hahn

    Mary Anne Hahn is publisher of WriteSuccess, a free biweekly ezine of ideas, information and inspiration for writers. To subscribe or review back issues, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/writesuccess

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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