Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Research Distraction

Writers are easily distracted.  I mean, it kind of goes with the territory, don't ya think? I think our brains are wired to notice all the shiny, pretty things. Only the most hardcore and committed among us (I'm not one of them) can keep our mind on the task in front of us for protracted amounts of time.  I can think of a few, but I think they're the exception to the rule.  And the worst distractor - when it comes to writing (and not the rest of life which is full of shiny, pretty things) - is research.

Research is necessary part of writing.  Obviously, we write about all sorts of things we cannot necessarily have personal experience with.  And then there are the things we do have personal experience with, but we want to make sure we're writing it right, or saying it right, to give readers a richer experience.  Needless to say, research - while necessary - can certainly take us away from the task at hand.  Whatever that task may be.

Yesterday, I got distracted researching something from Dying Embers - which is already out and people are buying it and reading it, so this isn't even something I NEED to research.  It was phrasing I had used that a reader had a question about.  And then I had to know where the phrase originated and perhaps how it got inserted into my lexicon.  :shrug:

This morning, I got distracted looking for something to talk about on this blog.  All I wanted was a psychological disorder that might lead one to a life of crime.  Instead I followed the rabbit down this path and that path... Did you know there's a study linking psychological disorders and traumatic brain injury?  Oh, and that anti-social personality disorder is now called 'sociopathy'?  And that according to Slate, 'abnormal is the new normal' and they're totally okay with that?  And there's something called Avoidant Personality Disorder - which I'm pretty sure I'm in recovery from...

Ahem.  Where was I?

Ah, yes, the research distraction.  I've had many a time when I was writing along nicely, churning the words out, when some tiny aspect of the story needed a little research.  I spent an unmentionable amount of time researching big, white dog breeds for Wish in One Hand, for instance.  (Research combined with a personal interest is the worst.  Decided on the Kuvasz, btw.)  Coming back to the writing after that is sometimes hard and occasionally, the whole writing session can be derailed due to one little thing, which leads to another little thing, which leads to another little thing until you start out researching varieties of wild mushrooms because the gal who found the body was trying to teach a client which ones are edible and which are poisonous, and you find yourself hours later looking at YouTube videos of cats.

One thing I've learned to do, and what the hardcore, committed writers seem to do, is instead of going off to chase the rabbit, you put a placemarker in the writing - and then keep writing.  When you edit, you do the research then, so as not to interrupt the flow.  And lord knows, for me, there's usually no editing flow to interrupt.  Of course, that only helps when you're actually in the writing groove.  If you're doing something else, and the research bunny hops in your path, you're pretty much screwed.


How do you deal with distractions?  Have you ever started out looking up one thing online and then followed the rabbit down a twisted path?  Where's you end up?


  1. What distractions? I'm totally focused on the goal. Blinders on, eye on the prize...wait. My coffee cup is empty. Oh, there's a bird at the feeder. I need to put more seed out. Ugh. The dogs' pool is looking nasty. I should empty it, scrub the bottom, and refill. Because...mosquitos. Coffee. What did I do with my coffee? Oh, yeah. Didn't make it yet. Oh! LG bought lottery tickets. I should check to see if he won anything. Nope. Wait. Where's my coffee. Oh, yeah. Microwave. I have coffee!....

    Wait. What was the question?

    1. LOL, and yet you get way more done than the average human being. I don't know how you do it. Seriously. Have you been cloned and there's like 5 of you working now? Coffee is good. Maybe that's your secret. You're drinking way more than I am. ;o)

  2. LOL! Research is my love and my bane. I abandoned one book nearly halfway through because I got so caught up in the research (and trying to use it) I completely lost the story. I need to get back to it someday, when I finish the Child series.

    Now when I go on a research binge, I move over to my nonfiction and research my heart out. ;-)

  3. Back in the day, when you had to look things up in books, (actual paper, imagine!), the definition of a boring person was someone who looked up something and closed the book. I found the best way to avoid distractions while actually writing is to insert something like this, "xxx (find out for sure how x works)" and keep on going. At worst as I go along I'll have to put more xxx in the text knowing I'll come back later when I've found out whatever that xxx is. This keeps the writing moving forward, and lets all the revisions (at least that phase of revisions) happening in the same stream.