I’m trying to start off right in this fourth week of the Blog Me MAYbe challenge (we’ll see how far I get). Monday is to tell you something about writing.
I’ve been working on an article that involves sperm whales. Whales are mammals, of course, but did you know that they are descended from hoofed mammals that looked like this?
How amazing is that? I thought it was so amazing I shared it with my 15-year-old, who really wasn’t all that amazed. Old news, as it turns out. Surprised, I asked him how he learned that little tidbit of information, and he said, “Uh…school?”
Translation: Geez, Mom, where else would I learn it?
But then, how come I didn’t learn it?
The answer, of course, is that the information was unknown when I was in school. This ancestor of the whale, Pakicetus, wasn’t discovered until 1979, which was only a year before I graduated high school. In college, my focus was on journalism, not science. So, why would I know?
Unless I had to research whales to write an article thirty-some-odd years later.
And that is the awesome factor of being a writer. I am actively learning things I never knew before. I am educating myself. Learning and sharing is the best part of what I do. If I were making money at it, that would be right up there too, but for now I get paid in knowledge. And I can sit out in my back yard, listen to the leaves rustle and the birds chatter (ignore the airplane sounds), and use my imagination to travel back 50 or 60 million years in the past–when some weird-looking mammals returned to the water from whence they came (millions of years before that) and evolved into whales.
If I were a fiction writer, maybe I could come up with Pakicetus characters and spin a whale of a tale…but my imagination only goes so far (sigh…)
Can you even be a writer without loving research and learning new things? I don’t think so. But, maybe I’m wrong. With nonfiction, research goes with the territory because a writer can’t know everything about everything. But, is it different for fiction writers who create their own worlds? Is research more of a chore and done simply for accuracy? Do fiction writers feel the same sense of “Wow, that is really cool!” that I feel when I stumble across something new to me?
I’m interested, so please feel free to weigh in. How do you like research and learning as part of writing? What is the awesome factor of being a writer for you?