Thursday, October 29, 2009

Brain Overload

"Learn as much as you can while you are young, since life becomes too busy later." - Dana Stewart Scott

The evening I returned home from the Florida Writers Association Conference my sister asked if I got anything out of it. I replied, “I think so, but I’m not sure.”

The reason for that answer was not because there wasn’t anything of value offered; the reason was because there was too much. The older I grow, the slower my brain seems to absorb information.

Creative writing classes beginning at 7:00am were offered. I heard they were quite good and fun but chose to take other people’s word for it. At that time of morning I want coffee—not writing prompts. Beginning the day an hour later still afforded me the opportunity to take a four-hour workshop Friday morning and two ninety-minute afternoon workshops, four ninety-minute workshops on Saturday and one on Sunday.

Not counting the 7am classes, I had a choice of 31 workshops. Though many people hopped from one session to another, once committed I was there for the duration so I could only physically attend eight. Making the selections was no easy task. Sometimes I decided by the speaker and other times by the course description. I was a “room monitor” for several sessions so I was assigned to a particular speaker, saving me the anguish of having to make up my mind.

Besides one book signing stint, the time in-between sessions was spent chatting and eating as all meals and snacks were included. By time I returned to the room at night, I only had enough energy left to fall into bed in an exhausted heap. I never had the opportunity to review what I had “learned” each day.

Knowing that many people would want to attend every session, the clever conference organizers made the handouts from each workshop available to anyone wishing a copy. I think I picked up every single handout. When I returned home Sunday, I not only had a notebook filled with ideas and tips, but I also had an enormous stack of material from classes I didn’t attend. Simply thinking about the amount of information I had to wade through caused me to worry about brain overload.

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend and fellow author. As we tend to do each time we get together, we talked for several hours nonstop about many writing related topics. I still haven’t had the opportunity to review my notes or read through the handouts so I was surprised at the number of times I found myself saying, “Oh, and in this workshop so and so said…”

I felt good knowing I actually retained valuable information. Maybe my brain is in better condition than I thought. Now, if asked the question of whether or not I got anything out of the conference, I can honestly say, “I sure did!”

Does anyone else suffer ever from information overload? Do you have any tips on how to organize notes and handouts to maximize their usefulness?

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: Dana Stewart Scott, Florida Writers Conference, creative writing, book signing, workshops,


L. Diane Wolfe said...

LOL! I guess lately I've been limiting the opportunities for information overload. I'm one of those people who absorbs to a point, and when I hit the max, my brain just shuts down. (Which is why I am glad our church services are only 1 & 1/2 hours long - any longer, and I stop listening!)

I caused brain overload this week teaching several publishing & promoting classes - does that count?

Joanne said...

Sounds like a great conference. I usually have to spend time absorbing, too, letting the information settle in. Rather than read through all that material, I'd make a special binder for those notes and handouts, highlighted and separated by topic to use as a reference guide in my writing.

Karen Walker said...

I have trouble retaining information. I take copious notes, though, for reference.

Helen Ginger said...

I can definitely get overloaded with info. It takes time to process. I would make a notebook of the handouts you gathered. Go ahead and highlight and make notes on them, adding in tidbits you gained while sitting in on the sessions or what you might have heard from others who attended, if you didn't. Then put it away for a while before you go back and re-read.

Straight From Hel

Tamika: said...

Your brain appears to be in good working condition!

Since I am the most unorganized person there is, I will not further complicate your life.

When you do have the time to wade through the notes I look forward to hearing all the valuable tidbits.

The Old Silly said...

Love the quotes you come up with to head your posts. And yes, as The Old Silly ages, he more and more gets what he calls "tired head." lol

Carol Kilgore said...

I think it's wonderful the conference provided handouts for all sessions.

Like others have said, I put things like this in a 3-ring binder and use dividers to keep like things together.

I don't try to put it together all in one sitting, but take an hour or so in the evening for a week or however long it takes.

First I put things in stacks of what's alike and throw away things I've picked up that I won't use - there's always some of that for me.

Then read quickly through handouts, highlighting anything important, punch holes in it and put it in the binder. By the time the binder's finished, you've refreshed your memory of things covered in the conference and it's all in one place for you to refer to later.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

This sounds as if it was a marvelous conference. There is no power on earth that could have me writing coherently at 7:00 am.


Nancy J. Parra said...

Sounds like you learned a lot- and it's always great to have notes for later.
A good conference is food for the writer's soul. lol Glad you had a good time.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I *completely* understand. I'm thinking I even get brain *freeze* with too much information.

It's great that you processed even more info than you thought you did!

I'm still planning on accessing the archives for the Poisoned Pen online conference. There was supposed to be a topic covering "Avoiding Cabot Cove Syndrome" and I wanted to ck it out. :) But that might be the only one I read. TMI!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Alexis Grant said...

I often find with conferences, the best time spent is BEFOREHAND, when I look over all the materials and pick which panels will best benefit me. You've really gotta choose properly, manage your time well, so that you can get the most out of them! I hope you'll share more about what you learned.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Ha. I had brain overload at age 16. It's never improved or gone away. It's one reason it took me 21 years to graduate from college. Yes, 21. What's really sad, is, to read my posts and comments, you'd never know I went to college. Sigh.

Best Wishes, Galen.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Thanks, everyone. I do appreciate your comments and suggestions. You've given me some good ideas. When I get back from Vegas, I'll start working on a notebook and hopefully will come up some helpful tidbits from the conference to share.

Galen, the importance is not in how long it took - it's that you did it!

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world