In that case, everything in my life is work, because I’d always rather be reading or writing, at any moment, anywhere, anytime.
But, if we think this way, resentment can kick in.
Or guilt. My friend Courtney often says: “I feel guilty for wanting to write instead of being with family, and then I feel guilty when I’m writing and not spending time with the family.”
Guilt and Resentment – What to Do?
Here’s what I do: I long ago declared that research is what I’m doing when I’m not writing. All the time.
The thought brings me comfort when I’m away from the keyboard for too long.
Folklorist Zora Neale Hurston said that research “…is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” That perspective seems to apply to the twists and turns of daily life, eh?
A Closer Look
I try to walk three-to-four miles every morning. And yes, my first few steps always bring to mind that I could be writing instead.
However, the other day (before the ice arrived in the South!) I noticed that the road I live on seems to attract an unusually large number of litterbugs. I imagined a character who appears “normal,” but harbors a quirky little obsessive-compulsive habit of stopping mid-activity and mid-sentence – no matter when, no matter where — to pick up litter.
What a unique and bizarre trait to give an antagonist, or a “bad guy,” eh?
If I hadn’t been walking (Researching), I might not have thought of it.
What’s more, writing instructors tell us to incorporate all the senses in our writing; but how can you do that unless you’ve observed their application in real life? So, you’ve got to experience, live life, do other things. (Research!)
Listening to your spouse snoring? Research.
Tracking that odd aroma to your teenager’s room? Research.
Uttering a unique wail in the store’s changing room when you realize you need a larger size? Research.
Cringing in disgust while accidentally drinking the now-sour milk that you’re sure you bought just yesterday? Research.
If you can – and you should be able to because you ALWAYS carry a trusty little pen and tablet with you, right?*! – jot a few notes about that snore, that aroma, that wail and that cringe.
Your research might come in handy the next time you are writing.
On the Upside: Guilt/research? It’s just a matter of perspective.
(And, pssssst, no need to make the loved ones aware that they’re part of your research.)
What about you — What incident(s) in the circle of your everyday (Research !) have you found yourself incorporating into your writing?