Why Being a Writer is Cool

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?

Pakicetus inachus, a whale ancestor from the E...

Pakicetus inachus, a whale ancestor from the Early Eocene of Pakistan, after Nummelai et al., (2006), pencil drawing, digital coloring (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Sperm whale and Bottlenose whale

Sperm whale and Bottlenose whale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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?

About Jeannette Monahan

A writer sidetracked by life, with a husband and two boys who shine brighter than Arizona sunshine. Visit me at my blogs: jeannettemonahan.wordpress.com or jmmonahan.wordpress.com. You are always welcome.
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13 Responses to Why Being a Writer is Cool

  1. kavenson says:

    I think when my kids are grown and out of the house, I shall return to school and become a student. I have done this a couple of different times as an adult and I learn so much more now than as a teen.

  2. Samir says:

    I tend to enjoy creative writing more than non-fiction because of the creative aspects involving the imagination and language use. As far as non-fiction is concerned, I do have to research of course, but I’m not too crazy about the process of researching – it sounds silly, I know, but it feels like a distraction when all I want to do is write. The knowledge acquired though is a pleasant bonus 😉

    • But you are right, Samir! The researching is a distraction–sometimes I keep reading and reading far beyond what I needed to know in the first place. Sometimes it’s a little hard to get back to the actual writing, but once I’m there it’s all good. 🙂

  3. pharphelonus says:

    I love evoking a reaction from someone, however small, and however fleeting. A laugh, atear, a resolution to view something differently. It’s a honor when someone chooses to read the words you have strung together, and a joy when they find them to have meaning for them, too.

    • That’s a good perk–affecting someone with your writing, hopefully in a positive way. I think when other people find something of value in what we write, it demonstrates how universal our experiences really are.

  4. Carrie-Anne says:

    I write historical, so research is a big part of story crafting. Even though I know my chosen eras like the back of my hand by this point, there are always new details to discover. At some point I’m considering leaving the 20th century and writing about eras and places further back in time (such as Heian and feudal Japan, the High Middle Ages, and early Native American history), so I’ll need to do more research than usual for those projects.

    • I love history! I’m thinking when I do go back to school, it will be for history. I always did love studying the Middle Ages in school, and there is a lot of early Native American history in Arizona. Japanese history never really caught my interest, despite having lived in Japan for a couple years after high school.

  5. subtlekate says:

    In my fiction pieced I needed to research a subject quite deeply and I really enjoyed it. I learned so much. Of course there was the issue of researching too much and putting off the writing.

  6. I love doing research to create an authenticity in my stories. Nothing sucks a reader out faster than a misplaced fact. Even in fantasy, because my stories are set in this world, I have to know how to navigate the roads in a small Wisconsin town that actually exists. For my time travel, I had to know what people wore in 1886. It enriches the reader’s experience.

    • Wow, even just this little comment makes me want to read your books, Kourtney! 🙂 I love time travel stories and I am connected to Wisconsin by marriage, so I would definitely pick up those books! You’re right about misplaced facts and also the authenticity part–discerning readers know when something is not right, especially if they live in that little town in Wisconsin. 🙂

  7. Thanks Jeannette! Fingers crossed an agent falls in love soon. 🙂 I had never been to Wisconsin and made a trip out there for research. It’s pretty gorgeous. Loved the fried cheese curds. I also rely on Google maps and satellite images. 🙂 The Victorian stuff was lots of books and finding a crit partner who also wrote about the Victorian era. She catches my mistakes. 🙂

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