Research is fun.
While digging through old books, ancient-looking letters, and interviews sometimes I feel like I’m prying; spying on private thoughts and exchanges I ought not be reading. I feel a flash of guilt and shame. But only a flash. Then, I become giddy with the discovery. My mind turns this way and that, fitting the information into the mental puzzle that are my books.
I flip through more pages, careful not to tear the fragile leaves. My eye is caught by a single line:
“Before she wrote even one word of her book, Pratt read through 300 documents, transcripts, and books.”
Instantly I feel connected with this person, this Pratt woman, who spent countless hours, like I have,on her book before ever putting pen to paper. More connected with her this woman long buried than the room of old men that I share the archive tables with.
Hours fly by. Reading first through one stack, then another, another, and another. My fingers fly over the keyboard, transcribing information into my computer, taking notes with pen and paper, “what kind of printing press?” “find their favorite hymns,” “What color were Mary’s eyes?”
The librarians, eager to help, bring book after book, hymnals, small notes they’ve tucked away here and there, each an answer to my questions, each another piece to the puzzle.
I copy off 200 pages of documents and stuff them in a large manila envelope. No time to read or transcribe each page now. They will have to wait.
Seven and a half hours of research spent, 200 pages photocopied, 20 pages of computer notes, countless pages of handwritten notes, contact made with important people, one address taken, two phone numbers given: I leave the library confidant.
I am a writer. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this everyday several times.
I now have two librarians eager to read my books, “Let us know as soon as you get your books published!” they
shout whisper to me as I leave. I never had to tell them my plans for publishing my books. They knew. And expect results from all this research they’ve helped with.
Even with all the research I’ve gathered. With everything I’ve read, and all that I’ve organized, I still do not feel quite ready to begin writing writing.
Will I ever feel ready?