When I first decided to be a freelance writer, I did tons of research. I bought lots of books, I subscribed to a lot of blogs, and reached out to anyone who could give me advice. On paper I did everything right. I went to college, got some internships, did my homework on freelance writing, and never stopped researching. I even spent hours creating a business plan filled with marketing ideas, target audience information, and ways to measure success to help guide me through out the process. That’s the beauty of the information age. There’s no reason to ever stop learning.
Sure, from the outside looking in everything was fine. Except it wasn’t. The reason? I never stopped researching. The books, the mentors, the blogs, and DVD’s were great, but they meant nothing if none of it went to use. That meant the shiny business plan I spent 5 hours creating was never applied to a freelance career. How could it be when every day there was some new information I just had to add to it? There was no way I could put it to use because it was never ready. I was so hungry for more knowledge that it never really amounted to anything.
Unfortunately, I think it might be a very common habit in this new digital age. We get so wrapped up in being well-prepared that we spend all our time getting prepared leaving no time to do the thing we’ve been preparing for. I’ve seen it happen all the time… an aspiring novelist telling me she can’t start writing her book until she finishes reading the book about how to write novels. Or the recent grad can’t start her plan on paying off her student loans until she completes watching the Youtube channel about eliminating debt on a limited salary. Of course, that one book and Youtube series turns into ten and before they know it they haven’t gone anywhere or done anything to reach their goal.
I’m sorry to say I was no different from them. Simply put, I was addicted to research. Even after I realized my addiction, I didn’t see anything wrong with it. After all, what could possibly be wrong with arming yourself with the knowledge necessary to go far? It’s too bad all my research didn’t get me anywhere because I never stopped researching. In fact, my research addiction did everything but take me far. I was stagnant because I was convinced my knowledge had to continue to grow before it could amount to anything. As a result, I took that leap of faith into the freelance world about two years later than I should have.
If only I knew when to stop gathering information I may have started my writing career much sooner. But who could blame me? With the Internet, sudden influx of Youtube videos, news stories, and “expert” bloggers telling me the right way to do things, there was no way to tell when enough was enough.
And that’s the downside to living in the information age. It’s way too easy to get caught up in information overload. There’s just no shortage of information! I mean, how do you stop gathering info and start doing when every news article is titled “The One Thing You Need to Do Before You Start” or when every successful blogger says, “If You Want to Be Successful, Do This”? Of course, the easy thing to do would just be to stop. Except it wasn’t that easy.
I imagine that’s how starts with most people. You get so caught up with doing it the right way that you never do anything at all. The next thing you know, years have gone by and you’re still talking about the day you will quit your job to be a pro skydiver, the day you will finally start that non-profit and the day you will finally put all that gathered information to use.
Rather than going cold turkey (since I knew that wouldn’t happen) I decided it was time to slowly but surely ween myself off my information resources. So I painfully stopped my Google alerts, unsubscribed from several blogs, and refrained from going to the library every day. And it was painful! However, the pain certainly did ease the day I was able to officially call myself a full-time freelancer.
Unfortunately, living in the information age has conditioned us to continuously seek additional information whether we need it or not. My guess? We have a genuine fear of not being perfect enough so we gather all the info we think will teach us how to be perfect only to realize we never will be perfect. Well, I’ve got news for you – As long as you keep researching without trying there is no way you will ever be perfect. So limit the blog subscriptions, back away from Youtube, and ignore all the advice. Most importantly stop researching and start taking action! You have all you need to go the distance. And there’s no need to worry if you stumble in the process. Luckily, there will never be a shortage of information should you need it.
Have you ever been so addicted to new information that you only gathered it and never put it to use?
TERRIfic Quip: Less is most.