From Curious to Furious: Confessions of a Research Junkie

By Darlene Cah
If you had told me when I was in high school or college that I would become addicted to research, I would have laughed in your face—I’m talking coffee-spraying-from-mouth laughed! It would have been hysterical (in the literal sense of the word), not to mention messy.

I’ll blame my penchant for research on the internet. Back in the day, when only the final draft made it to the typewriter, I‘d trek my lazy butt to a place called the library (Yes! Barefoot in 5 feet of snow! Schlepping 30 pounds of books strapped to my back!) There was this lovely, wood cabinet with dozens of small drawers filled with index-like cards. The mysterious clues on the cards sent me on a scavenger hunt for the books I’d need in order to write a somewhat logical term paper. Now, don’t get me wrong, I could spend an entire day wandering among the stacks, pulling out random books to see what I can discover within their musty pages. But what joy to find one tidbit of info that leads me to another and another with just a tap or a click!

Now, I know this is no great revelation, and I’m sure as far as technology goes, I’m probably functioning in the digital dark ages, but I could easily “lose” hours of writing time because I’ve gone off on some wild click-fest.

There are a few things to consider when I get caught up in a whirlwind of info overload.

  1. Am I avoiding writing by following lead after lead? (Please! Don’t make me face that blank page!)
  2. Do I have the information I need? (Wait! Just one more site. I can stop anytime; really, I can!)
  3. Know when to say no. (Enough! Step away from the “Next” prompt!)

On the other hand, the improviser in me says, yes, and…there’s a positive side to what many would consider out of control, time-wasting, excessive research. You never know what you’ll discover. Sometimes, I’ll be researching one topic, and find a great bit of info that could be useful in another story or even inspire a future story. Perhaps, I’ll find a tidbit that takes my story in an unexpected direction or a fact that adds color and depth to a scene.

I love information, and would always rather have more than I need. Even if I don’t use a particular detail, the idea will still influence, in some way, the final draft.

So how do you feel about research? Is it a necessary evil? An obsession? Or a complete hindrance to creativity? Are you a meticulous, methodical researcher? Or a “go with the flow” type?


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