If Big Brother is keeping records of my search history, I’m probably on a watch list. My writing takes me down some pretty weird bunny trails, and that’s one of the reasons I love it so much.
The best kind of research is the kind you didn’t set out looking for. The kind that appears organically from a little seed of curiosity. Questions grow from questions. And then characters and plots and themes start sprouting, too.
When I started my first novel, I was completely freaked out every time I hit a roadblock. What if I can’t solve this problem? What if my whole novel is now going to implode because I have a problem? I HAVE A PROBLEM!
The key for me has been to relax and wait for the answer. To believe that it will come. To stay curious, and then let the magic happen on its own terms.
Let’s take the cat who’s stuck in the tree. Or the ladder. Climbing up was easy. You get to the top, but then, MEOW! you don’t know how to get down! Before you start meowing your head off and calling the fire department, take a deep breath. Your curiosity got you up here, and it’ll get you down, too.
You start Googling. You read something totally unrelated. You watch a classic movie. You sleep on it. Your curiosity won’t let you quit, so your problem will be solved. Maybe in the middle of the night. Maybe over breakfast. Maybe while you’re driving to work or scrubbing the toilet.
You find yourself on the dark side of YouTube, watching blacksmithing videos.
You find yourself reading about 19th century mesmerists.
You find yourself reading novels you never would have picked up before, just so you can get inside a certain kind of person’s head.
You watch a documentary, and it’s not boring.
You have a conversation with a real, live person.
You fill a notebook with notes, half of which you’ll never even use, and that’s okay.
And before you know it, your writing has taken a whole new direction. You’ve found possibilities you never dreamed of. You’ve climbed the ladder and made it back down–and it turned out to be a magic ladder that took you somewhere brand new!
And chances are, if it’s captured your attention so well, it will fascinate somebody else, too.
So, stay curious! It may have killed the cat, but it’s what’ll keep you going as a writer!