Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Too Much Information

At first, I think it’s the textbooks. University professors only pick the books which contain nothing but useful, relevant information – nearly every sentence needs highlighting.
This systematic highlighting makes categorizing information in a concise and cohesive matter nigh impossible. Which, in turn, makes the construction of study notes an even more complicated task. Copying an entire textbook seems like way too much effort for a test worth 30% of your grade.
It’s, quite simply, too much.
Not even a herculean will could accomplish this feat within the boundaries of the allotted time. Well, unless the individual possessing this herculean will decides to forego sleep and all extracurricular pursuits entirely. (Warning: this will result in the death of said person).
Since I’m unwilling to sacrifice myself, I turn into a swirling miasma of frustration, anger, and doubt.
When it becomes too much (as these things inevitably do) I complain to other students in my class. They show me their textbooks. I’m amazed that some pages have maybe one sentence highlighted.
I demand an explanation.
After a few slightly flabbergasting and tedious conversations, I come to a horrible conclusion: the problem isn’t the textbooks, the problem (unfortunately, and I do hate to admit this) is me.
I’m far too detail oriented.
To me, everything is important. Every date, name, circumstance (essentially word) contributes to the bigger picture. The only way to fully understand is to know every single statement backwards and forwards. The only way to get others to understand is to give them every single piece of information that I deem relevant to the situation (which, is unfortunately, nearly everything that comes to my mind when a subject arises).
I live my life through the details.
 I watch people, every minute movement is important to understanding their motivations; if their motivations can be discerned, I can, generally, predict the outcome of most situations. It’s no different when I read. I try to predict the outcome of the book by analyzing the small details, the little things (it’s actually a lot of fun, especially when my predictions are right – which they always for a few notable exceptions).
In life, it’s easy for me to take the details and apply them to the bigger picture.
In courses, it’s harder. I end up wasting my time on small things that don’t need my focus.
And, through this realization, I’ve concluded that I do the same in my writing.
I don’t want people to misinterpret my characters, to see them as something they aren’t. So, I focus on things that don’t need that much attention, I waste my time on what are (in the grand scheme of things) inconsequential matters. It's true that every detail works towards creating the bigger picture, but all of the details I feel are necessary, are (apparently) not; the picture can be created with fewer broad strokes, instead of an abundance of tiny ones.
It’s difficult to do anything about this however, because to me, it’s all so important, it's all crucial information. I like looking at the smaller, intricate pieces weaving together. I find it so much more interesting. And, I feel as though I’m detracting from the story if I take these details away.
Plus, it’s not like being detail-oriented is all bad.  It helps with the continuity of my work, helps with characterization, and helps with setting.
Details are an important part of writing, without enough detail, you’ll lose your reader, they won’t be able to ground themselves in your story and your words will fall flat.
Too much detail, on the other hand, and you drown your reader in so much unnecessary information that they become confused and frustrated. In this scenario, they still put your book down.
There has to be a balance, you need the perfect amount of detail. This is very hard (especially when my mind keeps screaming – it’s not enough!!).
I have yet to come to any sort of resolution to this problem. When I do, I’ll let you know. All I know right now is that I need to start somewhere.
I’m sure my battle with my textbooks and my own manuscript - to restrain my need for an obscene amount of detail - will be a bloody one. I’m readying myself with plenty of weaponry and protective gear. I think I’ll start with a nuclear bomb – it’s really the only way to start, as nothing else is drastic enough.
Word Of The Day: Nimiety - excess; overabundance.


  1. Ah ha little grasshopper, I see the light coming on, the true concept of TMI is starting to sink in......sometimes you just have to land the plane!!

  2. I know exactly how you feel. But, in the very wise words of one of my post-grad peers, "You learn how to study better, not more." Figuring out how isn't exactly easy, but once you do - bingo!

  3. I think it's a good thing your are detail orientated. As a writer, we need to put in those details to make it real. I always put in more details on the second draft. Great post!


Thank you in advance for commenting, I read and appreciate every single word.