Taking Research on the Road

Research is necessary for the writer. We research everything from the right kind of devices for writing, publication procedures, literary agents, publishing houses, facts versus fiction, writing markets, coaches, editors, people, professions, places – the list is almost endless. Research is essential for us to find the right fit for our work, and often it can take as much time, it not more, as the time we put into the act of writing.

Today’s technology, as distracting as it may be, it a most useful tool. I spend a lot of my time travelling from one place to another – the advantage for me living in a congested city is that I rarely drive, so most of my travel is as a passenger on public transit. The time it takes travelling from one place to another is the perfect opportunity for me to log onto my smart phone and browse the internet for information on the topics I am currently researching. The worldwide web is our door to almost anything we need to study – but I there is also another way to explore our writing world, and that is to actually get out into it.

My favorite kind of research is the type that takes me out on road trips. Recently my partner and I stole a weekend and travelled out to a historical ghost town a few hours from where we live. We spent an entire day following winding roads over majestic mountain passes, invigorated by fresh air that always holds a touch of fall even in the midst of a blazing hot summer. Eventually we turn a corner and dip down into the dry desert terrain, where an unforgiving heat smolders over sagebrush and sand.

We find our tiny little ghost town exactly as we expect – silent, hot, dusty, and almost devoid of human life, but the for the pockets of houses still occupied amid the sleeping debris. I took pictures of the past, walked through deserted streets rousing my imagination to absorb the sights, smells, and sounds. I had an impression in my mind of what I was looking for – I didn’t find it. There was a moment of disappointment. I brushed it off, content to accept the day as a great outing with my partner, when suddenly, I discovered a new insight that would prove to be a most striking revelation for my current project. It was a simple observation that was overlooked in all the previous investigations and research, but it was one I would not have found had I not gone on this journey.

Travelling and exploring the world around us is both invigorating and challenging. We don’t always find what we’re looking for – our research can often lead us to dead ends, creating frustration and a feeling of having wasted precious time, but this is not always the case. There will always be those moments that offer us an opportunity to discover new components that would not have been obvious to us in any other time or place. Those are the moments we celebrate. They wipe our previous defeats, rejuvenate our passion, and validate the path we chose.

I won’t tell you what it was I discovered. It is my fervent hope that one day in the future you will have the opportunity to read about it from the book I hope to place in your hand.

Happy travels.

 

A Freedom in Reading

DSC_0982 (3)It has been a scorching summer – the driest we’ve had on record in our temperate rain forest, a season of smoke and fire. It has been a season of drought, not only for the rain we crave, but also for the words I would bring to the page. I have lost my vision in the residue of a demanding few months, and like the rain that will not fall, my stream of words have evaporated to a trickle. But this does not mean I am not working. It simply means I must turn to another aspect of my job as a writer. I have found a reprieve from my own drought in reading.

Reading is essential to the writer. It is, in essence, the writers’ research. Reading helps me release my mind. It takes me out of my own head for a while, unlocking a fresh awareness to thoughts and impressions without the pressure of a deadline. I keep a notebook by my side while reading, because often ideas will come when I least expect them. It is the season of brainstorming, dreaming and exploration. I am training for the creation of my own road map. Reading reminds me why I write. It revives my dedication to the craft I love and helps me carve out my own style.

Just like sticking to a writing schedule, it’s important to find time to read. I am learning to incorporate reading as part of my work, dismissing the niggling voices in my head that tell me I have too many projects to complete, that I don’t have time for this. The fact is, I’m always going to have to too many projects. Being an avid reader will only enhance my skill as a writer. Reading allows my imagination to flourish, showing me all the hidden possibilities I hope to deliver to my readers.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut

Glass Half Full

DSC_2204 (2)There are times when we can’t write as regularly as we’d like. No matter how much we say we will put aside time to write every day, sometimes that decision is taken from us – life has ways of disrupting the tide of our creative flow.

I try not to see those periods as worthless – I like to think of them as a resourceful reprieve to collect new ideas, observe the world around me, and stumble upon characters. It’s a time to breathe and discover, allowing images and words to naturally coalesce without the pressure of a blank screen. It’s been said that writers don’t take vacations, and that may be true as we are always writing in our heads, but like everybody, we will have moments of inactivity and we shouldn’t be intimidated by them. Imagine this idle time as a glass slowly filling with the liquid of our creative matter – eventually the fluid will reach the top and we will soak the page with a new fusion of narrative, words, images and mystery.

Don’t fear the empty vessel of inactivity – trust that it will always be replenished

Illusion and Reality

DSC_1623 (2)I saw an interesting question posted on a social media site: How many writers write in the same genre as they read? I took a moment to consider that – at first, my answer was “no”, I don’t normally write in the same category, but when I took a second look, I found the answer was not as simple as all that.

One my favourite genres to read is historical fiction and non-fiction – more specifically the history of Tudor England. I have a whole shelf dedicated to King Henry VII, King Henry VIII and all his wives, Mary Tudor and of course Elizabeth. I also have books on the Queens’ of England prior to the Tudor reign. I find Tudor England fascinating in all its horrific glory. There are more villains, heroes, femme fatales’ intrigue and mystery than in most fiction I have read. I love to escape to that tumultuous time during my break from writing.

I indulge in this historical world and yet, I write in the present. I blog about my life with RA, write guest posts for other sites and contribute to health articles. In writing about chronic illness, I always try to find the silver lining. My poetry bounces between shadow and light. In my fiction, I lean towards the dark and sinister side of human nature. I am attracted to characters I love to hate. I never connected my style of writing to history, but after some thought I realized that I tend to write about some of the same aspects – the survivors of Tudor England were untouchable in their exhibition of the darkness of human nature.

I suppose in answer to the question, “do I write in the same genre as I read”, I’d have to say both “yes and no”. I am influenced by some features as the things I read today, although, it doesn’t always fit into the same genre. And of course, I can’t overlook my younger years when I was drawn to the alluring stories of Stephen King – his influence lives on in some of the crime noir and supernatural thrillers I have produced. I think all writers absorb bits and pieces of the things they read and unconsciously adapt them to their own style – and that’s what makes writing a distinctive and fascinating occupation.DSC_1626

Blog Tour: My Writing Process

I am honoured to be asked to write about my process through this blog tour by a young talented writer, Herminia Chow, known to the blogging world as AspiringWriter 22. I am a bit behind in my participation, but here it is. Thank you for asking me to this tour. It’s a delightful way to get to know fellow writers, and experience their creative process. The creative process is a fascinating entity, and I call it an entity because it lives and breathes in itself.

What am I working on?

I work on a number of small projects at the same time; blog posts are written weekly for my arthritis blog (The Old Lady in My Bones), I also contribute guest posts to other arthritis websites and have recently been invited to be a feature blogger for one of those sites (details to come later); short stories and poetry are always in motion. Amid all the small projects, I am working my way through the big one – a novel.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Writing is always a very personal event. We all have different experiences and we all approach writing about them in a different way. I write in three different genres – fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction. Each person has their own style, that no one can emulate or copy. It’s through my own experience, style and process of bringing a story to the page that makes my work unique.

Why do I write what I do:

I love writing creative non-fiction. I think it’s important to have readers connect to an experience and that’s what makes creative non-fiction so powerful. In writing about living with arthritis, I connected with many who know exactly what I am talking about. They can identify with the same challenges living with chronic disease. In any non-fiction piece, there will always be people who will be drawn into your story because they’ve had a similar experience. In fiction, I have always been drawn to the darker part of life. It’s a strange juxtaposition. I am very positive, always looking for the blessings in my life, and I do believe a positive outlook will bring positive moments to your life. Maybe because of that, there’s a wicked part of me that enjoys exposing fears and doubts, and really making them bubble on the surface; part of life is being uncomfortable, and if I can stir a memory through one of my own experiences or if I can make a reader experience strong feelings towards one of my characters, I have been successful in communicating to my readers. Poetry is all about imagery. I want readers to smell the dank earth, to cringe from the heat of the sun, to feel relief from cool water, to remember heartbreak or delight from a first love, to feel the sting of a winter chill, to smell the briny air of the Atlantic – I strive to paint pictures with my words and put the reader into that picture.

How Does My Writing Process Work:

It starts with an idea or an image; it gets jotted down in a notebook, recorded into my phone or even photographed in my camera. If the image is strong enough, I can bang out a few opening lines; if it’s not strong, I let it simmer and I wait – it might get used in a current project or I might wait until a stronger storyline evolves. I start with a sentence. It could be the first sentence or the last, but once I write it I let it drive me. I don’t write in order. I write different scenes and then piece them together; sometimes a paragraph in the middle will lead me back to the beginning; sometimes an end will help me fill in the middle. There’s no logic to my method but is any writer’s method logical? We work in an artistic world, and there’s nothing about that world that is logical. Often I let the words lead me. I write when the desire takes hold and unleash as much as I can during that time. The time in-between is harvesting and planting new ideas.

Thank you, Herminia, for inviting me through this tour. Now I will need to work on the other one you invited me to 😉

You can find Herminia’s blog at: http://aspiringwriter22.wordpress.com/

Stop by and share your support. We don’t write alone in this world.