It’s one of those nights… One where I sit down to write and find myself distracted by Twitter, Facebook, Good Reads, emails and everything else the internet has to offer.
But something I read on Twitter did make me feel a little better about how easily I’m distracted. Judy Blume tweeted that she got caught up in You Tube videos of Debbie Reynolds, Ann Miller and tap dancing while she should have been writing.
If the woman who wrote Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Blubber can get sidetracked from writing, then I’m not going to feel guilty when it happens to me.
Although it’s a little hard to believe that I have anything at all in common with Judy Blume. She is one of my childhood reading heroes, right up there with Laura Ingalls Wilder and Beverly Cleary.
Judy Blume said in the tweet that she got diverted while she was doing research for a book.
I’ve mentioned this before but until I started writing regularly myself, I never stopped to think about the amount of research that is necessary to write. (I also never realized how repetitive I am. I’m always writing ‘I’ve mentioned this before’ in these blogs.)
Working on my MPBAN (might possibly become a novel) I have found myself googling things that I never thought I’d google.
Strip clubs in Las Vegas, The Poker World Series, lyrics to hymns, Payless locations in California, evangelical ministers, what type of glasses you serve whiskey sours in and, I might be giving part of my plot away here, whether or not home oxygen tanks can blow up an entire house.
Maybe I watch too many cop shows, but sometimes I think that I would be screwed if law enforcement ever confiscated my computer. They could probably frame me for dozens of crimes just based on my search history.
Off topic alert: One of my biggest irrational fears (Very different from my rational fears, which are probably worth a post of their very own) is to be arrested and sent to prison for something I didn’t do.
I don’t know if it’s the idea of being locked up or the powerlessness of knowing you’re telling the truth and not being able to prove it, but the idea has always terrified me.
Once, many years ago when I was young and able to sleep on the ground without waking up feeling like I had been hit by a truck, I camped out in a cemetery with a friend (you know who you are!) and some of her friends.
At some point during the evening, the discussion turned our biggest fears. It seemed a fitting topic since we were sleeping in tents on people’s graves.
My friend said her biggest fear was being sucked into a black hole where you had to face your biggest fear, which was being sucked into a black hole where you had to face your biggest fear, and you get the idea.
You have to admit, it’s a very imaginative fear.
I don’t remember what everyone else said, but I’m sure they were just as imaginative. These are people who dreamed up camping in a cemetery after all.
And then it was my turn. When I said I was most afraid of being convicted of a crime I was innocent of, my campmates scoffed. They actually laughed at my greatest fear.
I don’t think I’ve ever gotten over the shame of having my biggest fear scoffed at as if it were nothing.
And secretly I’ve sort of been waiting all these years to hear through our mutual friend that one of them got arrested. My fear wouldn’t seem so silly from jail, would it?
Anyway, I do think my search history would raise some eyebrows, at the very least.
I have this idea that it would be fun to compile a book that lists famous author’s bookmarks and computer search histories.
Wouldn’t it be fun to see what JK Rowling looked up when writing Harry Potter? And I bet Stephen King’s list is fascinating. And disturbing.
Of course, when you get a certain point in your career as a famous novelist you probably either have someone doing research for you, or you go in person instead of looking things up online.
At last year’s Books on the Nightstand retreat, Chris Bohjalian talked about going to a flight simulator to see what it was like to escape from a plane that had crashed and was underwater. The research was for his latest book, The Night Strangers. Since then I’ve heard him on public radio and other interviews talking about it further.
I would love to be able to do research that way. Instead of googling Las Vegas strip clubs, I could go to one.
Well, maybe that’s not the best example. But I wouldn’t mind going to the World Series of Poker. Or blowing up an oxygen tank in a lab to see what would happen.
The research isn’t the only part of the writing process I find intriguing. I’m also amazed at where the story has taken me.
If someone had said to me last May that this writing project would lead to me writing a series of stories, and contemplating a novel, that dealt with religion, gambling and a shoe store, I would have laughed.
Well, maybe not at the shoe store because I worked at one in high school and college.
But the religious aspect? I never would have guessed it. I especially never would have guessed that one of my protagonists would be a self-proclaimed minister and that I would like him. A lot.
I guess you never know where you mind will lead you if you just go with it.
That’s the cool thing about writing. You find yourself exploring things that you might never have explored. Both online and on the page.
And, at the risk of sounding like a recent convert to some cult-like religion, everyone should be doing it!