Friends, I love me some research.
It’s just so satisfying finding stuff out about stuff.
While writing this latest chapter, I’ve looked up the paleo-diet which recommends that you eat the way our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors supposedly did (my favorite proponent is this guy whose catchphrase is “Die biting the throat;” you can get it on a t-shirt!), Isaiah 11: 6-8 (The wolf shall lie down with the lamb and so on), Quakers, how long it takes to grill a rare steak, if fish are capable of feeling pain, evolution and natural selection and, as I wrote about in this space a couple weeks ago, predatory animals, especially the ones that sometimes eat humans.
I’ve come to think that even if it seems like procrastination at times, research is a fundamental part of my writing process. I’m trying to emulate one those super wilderness scouts who can look at the-ever-so-slightly-bent twig or the barely-there footprint and gauge exactly how far off whatever you’re looking for is and what it had for lunch.
Admittedly, I do sometimes get a bit sidetracked. The other day I was looking up Edward Hicks’ famous painting “The Peaceable Kingdom,” which my mom always used to take us to see at the National Gallery of Art in D.C., and which always fascinated me not only because of the animals’ really odd expressions but also because they were playing with those weird-looking, early American folk art babies…
and then I had to read about Quakers because Edward Hicks was a famous Quaker and then I started thinking, wow, I’ve always thought Quakers were really cool and maybe I should be a Quaker and then I started looking up Quaker meetings in Chicago —
that was maybe a tich off the beaten path.
So I try to balance research and writing. But when I stumble across some semi-hidden sign, catch a trace scent in the air that leads me to a brand new thought or connection or story, it’s really kind of thrilling. I don’t know if I’ll find exactly what I’m looking for (a thorough understanding of why and how everything in the
world universe is what it is and does what it does) but at least I’ll have an account of the expedition.