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A Minor Epiphany I had About Research

Since I was but a wee lad, I've said that I loathe doing research. Chatting with a fellow writer-in-arms, I came to the realization that I've been thinking about it wrong.

There are three types of research, I've concluded, that tend to go into creative projects.

Pictured: My vast knowledge of violent cults.

Pictured: My vast knowledge of violent cults.

  1. The facts. This is just a matter of making sure that I'm not being an idiot. Setting a novel in a police precinct? Yake the time to learn proper procedure - or at least enough to get by convincingly. Playing a doctor on TV? For god's sake, know what an embolism is when the TV patient has one. This is usually pretty dull research (for me, at least),  but it is hugely necessary and you ignore it to your own detriment.
  2. The genuine interest. This is research that doesn't really feel like research, and so I was hardly aware that I've been doing it. This is consuming media that relates to topics I already love or that I read to teach me something - the best part about this kind of research is that it doesn't actually have to be applicable to anything I'm working on right now. I like to think of it depositing knowledge into a mental bank.
  3. Reluctant research. This is the stuff I really don't like. Basically, it's when I've shoehorned myself into writing about a subject I don't actually care about. Which begs the question, why am I writing about this? Often times... I just have to.

I kinda suck at 1 and 3. But I am all over number 2.

The genuine interest category is very broad, but the best way for me to put it is - this is all stuff that if you encounter me at a party and accidentally bring up in conversation, I will spend the next hour or two yakking your ears off about.

This includes: various writer's styles and stories, serial killers, podcasts, board games, heavy metal music, cults, religions, power dynamics, historical patterns...

Yes, this is all ultimately stuff I just like quite a bit, but it's deeper than that. This is stuff I like and can witter on about at length, stuff that I will gladly take the time to learn more about. I think this is the important part: I don't make myself research this stuff. I just do. In my spare time, no less.

This is the kind of research I'm going to be more conscious of doing. Very often, I'm just going to have to suck it up and learn about stuff I might not care about too much, but finding the link between that and something I would read about for fun - that, I think, is pretty key.

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