Writing vs. Research

writing-vs-researchA couple of months ago, while doing dishes, an idea landed on my head. That’s what it felt like. It came out of nowhere and smacked me right on the head. The idea is about a boy named George Buchanan who becomes Earth’s ambassador to its first alien visitors. I’ve started thinking about the idea again. I’m starting to feel excited about it. Every now and then, bits of dialogue pop into my head.

Here’s the thing. I don’t know anything about aliens or space and George loves space. As his creator, I should learn about space. And aliens. I should buy books on space, learn about galaxies, make flash cards of Jupiter’s moons and start reading science fiction. All that sounds daunting, but necessary. I couldn’t possibly start writing anything until I, you know, know everything there is to know about space. This, as you can well imagine, leads to me freezing up. Instead of outlining I look on Amazon for Neil deGrasse Tyson books and see when the library closes on Saturday (five o’clock). I am afraid that some day, some astrophysicist is going to be reading the book and be disgusted at my lack of knowledge about…. I don’t even know.

It’s not practical to think I’m going to do my own mini-masters degree every book idea. I need a plan. I feel that most of my life’s problems would be solved if I had a professor sitting around my living room with various syllabi for me to work through. How great would that be? I’d explain my plan to write a book on space, she’d whip out her space syllabus complete with reading list and assignments for to be completed in three months and then BAM! Book. On the other hand, I think spending a great deal of time making a learn-everyting-about-space-plan is a way to procrastinate the actual writing while feeling smug about it.

So here’s what I’ll do: I’ll write and research. I’ll wait while you soak in this revolutionary thought.

George is very smart, but he’s only 11. This is a book about aliens coming to Earth. That means I get to make up a lot of stuff. George loves space more than anything, but between navigating around his older sister, his parents, and the President of the United States, George will spend most of the book talking about things other than space. Therefore, I don’t need to know everything about space. Or aliens. Or Presidents.

Here’s what I’ll do broken down into actual specific steps.

  1. I’ll read Welcome to the Universe. I haven’t started yet, but it’s pretty heavy. I have great faith it will tell me everything I need to know.
  2. I’ll watch Independence Day Whatever Neil deGrasse Tyson forgot to mention, Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum will catch me up on.
  3. I’ll write the first draft of my book currently titled… um… Not Indepence Day.
  4. I will set the book aside for a while (I’m not falling for that again).
  5. When I read over the draft, I will notate where in the manuscript I may want to add more detail/facts/space stuff, write out specific questions and look up answers to those specific questions.
  6. Then, oh I don’t know, get millions of kids interested in space travel which launches a golden age for humanity as people work together to discover and explore instead of war and pollute which saves mankind, Earth, and gets a space station named after me.

Wild: Start 2017 Feeling Inspired and Thankful for Your Toenails

Full disclosure: I did not buy this book. Because I would never buy this book. I mean it. I was quite judgmental about this book when it came out. I didn’t need to read a book about a woman who went out in nature to find herself. I already read Eat, Pray, Love and frankly, would prefer my journey of self-awakening to take place, at least partially, in Italy. Then, the movie came out. Which I didn’t watch. Because I didn’t need to watch a movie about Reese Witherspoon finding herself. I had Legally Blonde. Also, the movie version wouldn’t fit into Daniel’s and my narrow category of movies we watch: action comedies, some classics, The King’s Speech, and romantic comedies made between 1989 and 2003.

I would never have read this book; I couldn’t read this book. Not after all the judging I did in my brain when I saw it. It would have been hypocritical for me. But, then my friend Kathryn bought it for me for my birthday. And she reassured me that while she judged the book too, it was actually incredible. And if Kathryn says a book is incredible and then buys it for me…. I could always read two chapters and stop. Kathryn lives all the way in Germany, so there isn’t much she can do about it.

Except once I got going, I didn’t want to read only two chapters and stop. I wanted to read all the chapters as fast as I could. Because here’s the thing about this book about a woman who goes into the wild to find herself, it’s really good. Bravo Cheryl Strayed, bravo.

Strayed is a fantastic writer. I say that I will read anything as long as it’s well written and here we are, proving that right. Wild is a memoir about the summer Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave desert to the border of Oregon and California. Her narrative is full of hiking things: tents, boots, toenails falling off, weather. But, it’s also full of her life and how she got to the trail. The book is honest and brave. She writes of her mother’s death, her stages of grief, how her marriage fell apart. None of this is to elicit pity from the reader, but simply to explain. I don’t think I’ve read descriptions of grief as finely wrought as this. You really feel with Strayed. And by feeling her downfalls, you feel her triumphs all the more.

Another thing I liked about the book was how honestly she wrote of the hiking itself. First of all, she is incredibly unprepared for her undertaking, which I know I would be. She doesn’t shy away from explaining what happens to her body in the process, how she deals with her period or how the pack rubs weird callouses onto her hips. She discusses all the nice people she met on the trail and the few not nice ones. Strayed wasn’t in the wilderness for her entire hike. She hiked into small towns and outposts to collect boxes of supplies she mailed to herself. I found this endearing. Her having to stop to rest and restock helped me remember she is a regular human and not a super human. This made her accomplish all the more impressive. She’s not Bear Grylls out there filtering her urine and frying up worms. She’s a normal human who needs normal human things. While hiking, she daydreams of Snapple lemonade and drives herself crazy with her thoughts. She talks of the difficulty of hiking, the boredom, the pure amazement you feel knowing you can push your body like that. She weaves her stories of her past through the hiking narrative so that you never get tired of the trail.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone. Hiker or no hiker. I am no hiker and enjoyed it immensely because it’s fantastic and anyone can enjoy anything that’s fantastic. So I think we all learned a couple of things here: you really ought not judge a book by it’s cover and Kathryn rules.