Controlling Overwhelming Inspiration

“It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure…” – Clay Shirky

I’ve heard it said now from several “in-the-know” people recently, that the answer to the onslaught of information presented by the Internet is through filtering. But it wasn’t until I read an article at that this message really sank in for me. The article, written by Hutch Carpenter, talked about developing an effective filter for ideas in the work place, specifically large businesses that have trouble hearing from their larger employee base, but this isn’t what struck me. What I gravitated to the most was a quote he gave at the beginning of the article. “It’s not idea overload. It’s filter failure.”

This is obviously an adapted version of Clay Shirky’s quote (seen above) given at the Web 2.0 Expo, but even with all of my talk about the correlation between information overload and inspiration overload, it wasn’t until I read that adapted quote that I made the extra connection to filtering. So if I may use adapt this quote one step further…

It’s not Inspiration Overload. It’s Filter Failure.

The problem overly creative people have, and I’ve only said this a thousand time in this blog, is controlling their ideas and not letting the idea control them. This idea of inspiration overload is when the ideas are too many and too exciting that it stops the person having them from being productive at all, and is, of course, just an adaptation of the term ‘information overload’. The cool thing to me is that this adapted quote works just as well with this adapted term as the originals do. Just as you need to filter what information you take in to control information overload, so to do you need to filter your inspirations and ideas to control inspiration overload.

This goes back to my Hierarchy of Priorities I talked about a while back. To control your overwhelming sense of inspirations, you need to first prioritize the now before you can do anything else. Adding in this idea of filtering brings you even one step closer to controlling that whirlwind of inspiration. First find your inspirational priority (be it school, work, family, or depending on your current level of success, artistic direction) then further flesh out what is important by creating filters for yourself to stop the creation of new ideas and distractions. Maybe you need to stop reading certain blogs for a while that add too much fuel to your fire, so-to-speak, or maybe it’s just a matter of not listening to especially inspiring music or television while you are doing work that might get your mind side-tracked on an enticing thought path. What is important is finishing your priorities first, the faster you finish them the faster you can revisit those other inspirations. (Not that you should rush your work either mind you.)

As always, if you already use filters for yourself or something similar, let me know. The only way to fully form an idea is to share it with others.


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