Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Down the Research Rabbit Hole

I'm still firmly ensconced in Ancient Greece right now; I've decided that the best way to tackle Research Fatigue is to pretend I don't have that much to research! If I can give myself tunnel vision, and focus on one item on the (Self-Inflicted) Research To-Do List For Crazy People, I don't feel nearly as, well, fatigued. I recognize that 1) this makes for less diverse and probably less interesting blog posts, and 2) it requires an advanced amount of self-delusion, but hey, I'm up for being dull and nuts if it gets the job done!!

This week, I followed my typical research pattern, which looks like a small child's hand-drawn map. You know, nothing is really in scale, there's no sense of perspective or distance between points, and more than one road goes meandering off into nowhere...

Here's an example: today, I set out to learn what the daily life of a shepherd in Ancient Greece would really be like (the other soul, Apollo's lover, is a shepherd, so this is grade-A important info.) Responsible-writer-cap firmly on my head, I went to JSTOR (thank you, Crystal!!), and started reading semi-related articles on animals and animal husbandry in Greece and so on...but nothing really answered my question.

I didn't want to give up, but I was getting frustrated, so I sort of pushed the responsible-writer-cap a little bit off my forehead - just so I could scratch my head - and found that I was searching on wikipedia instead of JSTOR.

Hmm. How did that happen? Oh well, I thought; I'm here, I might as well look into general shepherd-ry while I'm at it!

Except, that cap was getting kind of uncomfortable, so I took it off - just for a couple of minutes - and put it on my lap.

That's when I thought: wait, do I REALLY need a lot of information on a shepherd's daily life? I mean, the story is going to start when Apollo sees this shepherd and decides to take him away from his shepherding duties.

Yup, not important!! It was much more important for me to have a firm grip on this guy's character. I did some great work on Apollo's character last week, but Acaeus - that's the shepherd's name - was really underdeveloped.

So I abandoned wikipedia, opened up my trusty character analysis document (knocking my responsible-writer-cap off of my lap and onto the desk in the process), and dug into Acaeus. I started brainstorming and writing, and decided that his mother died in childbirth (an all-too-common occurrence in Ancient Greece.)

Wait, I thought, if she died in childbirth, did he need a nurse to, um, nurse him? Would a poor recently widower-ed shepherd dad even have access to a nurse? How did Acaeus survive?

Artemis must have killed his mom and saved him! She is the goddess of childbirth, and the Greeks believed she was responsible when mothers and/or infants died in labor.

But was there a nurse? And why did a virgin goddess care about childbirth, anyway??

Back to the internet! I looked up Artemis and childbirth, which led to much digging into maternal death rates, which lead to attempting to read about the lives of lower class women in Ancient Greece, which got even more frustrating because, like most historical reading, there's a whole lot of information on rich people's lives, and little to none on the masses'.

I brushed my responsible-writer-cap onto the floor in impatience, and decided that what I really needed was to research Ancient Greek names so that I could name Acaeus's mother and father!

Ooo...traditional names and their origin in myth...cool... *buries self in mythology*

Wait, what was I working on? Oh yes, Acaeus's character! I knew Acaeus had some narcissistic tendencies, although not a personality disorder, so I turned again to the internet and started looking up some basic psychology on narcissists.

I read three or four information-rich, thought-provoking articles, and then in the process of searching for more, I found a weird yet compelling website on reincarnation, and thought, OOOO! Why not? I mean, my book is about reincarnation!! So I started reading all about the 5 Levels of Souls and the 35 Stages of Souls and the 7 different Types of Souls and....

...and then I disappeared down the rabbit hole.

Whoops. Sorry about that. I'll try to dig myself out in time for next week's post...

33 comments:

  1. It's interesting about the difficulty finding info on the 'lower' classes. Guess a thousand years from now researchers will only be able to find info on celebrities and dirty politicians.

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    1. Yup. And the crimes of the middle and lower classes. It'll sound like all us peons did was commit crimes... sigh.

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  2. You went off on a lot of different directions. Sounds like it gave you some new ideas though.

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  3. What you're looking into actually sounds like a lot of fun! It's really not that surprising that you have to hunt for the info about the lower classes. Sad as it is, that is something that is not likely to change soon.

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    1. Thanks! It IS kind of fun. I know - I agree. It's sad and frustrating but doesn't seem to change, does it?

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  4. Rabbit-holing (is that a word?) happens to me a lot. I'll start on one topic and find myself researching something different several hours later, yet somehow it's all still connected.

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    1. It is now! I like it. Yes, the best rabbit-holing does seem to stay connected, somehow.

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  5. Ahh, lovely, lovely research. I can do the same thing on a rich topic like you're looking into. So much cool stuff, it's hard to stay focused on one element, especially when it can take you to related information you just might need. Good luck tunnel visioning again.

    Oooh! Maybe you could make tunnel vision goggles (c). Take safety goggles and duct tape two rolls of toilet paper on them to look through. Wear those instead of your responsible writer cap. If nothing else, others will definitely leave you alone and not bother you while you're working.

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    1. Ok, laughing out loud again :) I just imagined myself in those goggles. Yes, I do think that would guarantee some uninterrupted time...

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  6. LOL. You'll figure it out eventually! I think there will come a time where you won't be able to do anything except write the story, and all of this stuff you didn't even realize you learned will just come pouring out of you. Mark my words!

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    1. Oh boy, I would really love for that time to be NOW...but I know you're right.You do the research, you pack your head full of it, and then one day the story just comes out. Thanks for reminding me :)

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  7. I hate when I have so much to do and cannot thin. When I a in distractible mood, I set a timer for an hour or a half hour and force myself to do the work. It actually helps. I find when I see the light at the end of the tunnel, there is hope.

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    1. A timer is a great idea, actually. Thanks for coming by!

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  8. I bet you'll find a way to connect all the dots.

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  9. Ha, research is such a rabbit hole. Perfect description. And when you are writing, there are times when you can just mark an area in your manuscript that needs a bit more research and move on, too. Just to not get sucked too far into researchland.

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    1. Yup, that's a good reminder - although I mostly use research to develop the plot! But still, it's good not to get TOO stuck in it :)

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  10. Love the patterns you begin to see when doing historical research (on just about any subject). The cyclical nature of things never ceases to amaze me. The tools change, but human nature and behavior doesn't seem to all that much. (Not always a great thing...)

    The thing about research, is that none of it is wasted. All the little things you learn will filter into your writing in some or another. You might not keep all of it, but it'll be there in the way your characters interact, how you set scenes, etc. Yes, there has to be an 'off switch' at some point or the story will never get written, but any time you invest into learning will be helpful in the end.

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    1. Thanks, EJ. You're right... about all of it. Patterns can be inspiring as well as depressing, and I DO have to find that off switch. Just not there yet :)

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  11. Ha! That's exactly what happens to me :)

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  12. I'll be starting a novel set during the Civil War era, so I'll soon be falling down that hole with you- what sort of snacks do you like? And please don't say carrots... ;)

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    1. LOL. Lettuce? ;) Bring chocolate, and we should both make it!!

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  13. LOL!! I'm sorry JSTOR didn't yield better results for you. It usually provides great bits for me, but it can be a bit difficult to navigate. (And for the record, I ADORE Wikipedia.)

    Research is such a blast, and such a black hole, but seriously, don't you feel a TON smarter now? =)

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    1. Totally not JSTOR's fault! I have to learn how to use it better, plus I was searching for a less-than-common topic. And yes, I DO feel wicked smart now! :)

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  14. Your dedication amazes me. Research and more research, I don't know if I could stay focused. I give you credit, I'm a slacker...

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    1. Haha, thanks, but sometimes I think slacking on research might result in more WRITING... ;)

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  15. You are finding so much good material, Liz; keep digging. "I'm up for being dull and nuts if it gets the job done" -- that made me chuckle. I'm up for being unsocial and haggard as long as my work turns out all right.

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    1. haha, yes, I'm with you - dull and nuts and unsocial and haggard. We're gonna be SO popular... ;)

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  16. Yes, it is a rabbit hole.

    I'm fascinated with historical novels that bring the world of normal, everyday life of that age to the present.

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    1. It's funny, I never set out to write a historical novel, and yet here I am steeped in history. Go figure!

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  17. hehehe---squirrel! Those sound like quite fascinating trails you were following, so I'm just sure you gleaned little nuggets that will prove useful down the road. I like it that you think through the details, even though it leads you astray.

    And btw, as I type this, I'm on the floor watching my real life rabbit chew things. Turns out you don't even need the hole to get distracted -- just the bunny!

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