Thursday, 29 July 2021

The Research Demon

I wish I liked research. 

I do try. I really do. One of the stories I’m working on is set in Texas in the Great Depression. And to help me with it, I’ve accumulated several tomes to provide me with background details about everything from the Dust Bowl to carnivals to riding the rails, as well as various collections of photographs taken in the 1930s.

But whenever I take them out, determined to get down to work and learn about the subject, it isn’t long before my eyes glaze over and I’m looking at the dust that’s accumulated on a knickknack beside my PC and deciding that that really has to be taken of. Right now!


 Worse still, if I do manage to concentrate for more than a few minutes and take notes about interesting details, I can guarantee that I’ll forget just about everything I’ve learned. Yes, it’ll all be there in the notes, and in the books I took the notes from, but whenever I open up either it’ll be as if I’d never seen them before. ‘That’s interesting,’ I’ll think to myself. And then promptly forget it all.


Or almost all. There will always be one little nugget, one strange details that sticks in my mind. And which when I put it into a story lights it up like a candle in a darkened cellar. To give just one example from my Texas research, I learned that people without refrigerators – let alone the electricity to power them – would dig a hole in the floor of their cabin and store food in jars in its cool, dry darkness. It’s a detail that all my friends who’ve read a draft remember. They say it really brought the time to life.

So I’ll keep on researching. I know it has benefits. But I do wish I liked it.

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