Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hiatus, Research and Other Unrelated Stuff

Yes, the date of my last blog was April 20. Fifty plus days since my last blog. You'd think I'm not a serious writer. But life happens. I've had to turn my full attention to employment issues (which I'd been deferring due to the fact that my savings was, umm, healthier) like job seeking. I recently finished studying for and taking the Foreign Service Exam-- a stimulating exercise that reminded me how much there is to know and how much I like knowing it.
Ironically, the part of the FS exam I found most challenging was the essay question. I was given 30 minutes to write an essay on my feelings on a controversial international topic. It wasn't an especially difficult topic, but as I gathered my thoughts to begin writing, I found myself wishing I could have just five minutes to do some quick research to enhance my writing and check some facts.
I believe that most good writing--fiction or non-fiction-- requires an inquisitive writer who doesn't mind doing a little research. The more you know about something, the more detail and dimension you can give your writing. And sometimes, what you learn opens new avenues of thought, plot and opinion. Anne Lamott writes an engaging essay on getting help from experts in her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Lamott shares an experience where she calls around until she ends up on the phone with a man sounding like father time who tells her that the little metal cap that covers a champagne cork is called a muselet. The simple phone encounter not only gave Lamott expert-specific language, but provided a unique human interaction that she said enriched her overall writing.
I keep a list of topics that I need to do research on handy for those moments when the writing isn't flowing, but I want to do something that supports the creative process. Just writing it down starts information flowing. Like learning more on gardening. I know some basics, but I have a character who is a Master Gardner so I need to know more than that for those moments when she is tending her garden. Ironically, a few days after adding gardening to the list, I overheard a woman say she was a Master Gardener after yoga. She gave me her card, told me about some websites, and said she'd be happy to answer questions. Perhaps as I learn, I'll get motivated to enhance my tiny yard with some flowering perennials.
I'm trying hard to make this blog about something, when its really just about getting back into the saddle. Forgive my lapse, wish me luck on reemployment, and stay tuned for further ramblings.