When I finally learned to read I discovered that libraries are an endless source of information. I trolled the nonfiction section looking for anything that caught my interest. The first that I explored was my Native American heritage. Because my mom didn’t know what tribe we claimed, I read every book on the shelves.
I became an “expert” on all things related to the first people. I knew what foods they ate, the clothes they wore, how they traveled, what their homes looked like, all depending upon where they lived. Little did I know that those old books contained limited knowledge recorded as fact.
What was important, however, was the development of an interest in research that would last a lifetime.
I reveled in projects assigned by teachers. Write a paper on a famous person? It might take several trips to the library before I could settle on one.
Trace Hannibal’s journeys? No problem. Research Greek architecture? The same.
When I was at college I discovered the wealth of information in the stacks. I might have a broad idea for a paper which exploded once I got to reading journal after journal. I would sit on the cold floor and pull down one compilation, then another. I’d move to another row and resume researching.
The problem was that I loved the process of discovery so much that I couldn’t stop. It became a compulsion that I still fight to this very day.
For example, I needed to find out the names of countries during medieval times. That was easy. One click and a detailed map popped up. But then I needed an island in Europe, maybe off the coast of Spain. There are islands but I didn’t recognize the names.
I typed in an old name and research appeared! How wondrous! How clever! How enchanting.
But that wasn’t getting me any further than where I currently am.
I moved on to sample names of cities. That was an endless source of information.
What about names of rivers? Mountains?
What was the weather like? How did that influence clothes worn? What kinds of shoes did people wear back then? What did they ate and drink? How did they entertain themselves?
I got stuck in this cycle of discovery that lead me from one topic to another.
When my eyes got tired, I forced myself to stop research.
But then I moved on to another project: fining a recent photo of my daughter. That meant opening folder after folder hoping to find something good enough to print. I didn’t find one, but I did discover images that were ten years old that I would never use for any purpose. They are now gone.
I sometimes wonder why I love research so much. I’ve analyze whether or not it’s a form of procrastination. Do I delve into these projects in order to avoid that which I should be doing? Or am I really engaging in productive work? It’s usually a little of both.
On the other hand I am a curious person. I love meeting new people so that I can learn what their life is like. Part of this is to weigh how my life measures up, the other is to expand my knowledge base. The more information you have stored away, the more conversant you can be.
When I catch myself researching I now force myself to pause and reflect. Do I really need that information in order to write the story I am working on? If yes, then I give myself permission to continue. If the answer is no, then I quit even though it’s painful to do so.
It’s also an addiction. It’s not harmful the way drugs and alcohol can be, but it does prevent me from engaging in those activities that are most meaningful, that bring the most joy.
As with any addiction you need a rope to hang on: something to grab ahold of while an outside force moves you away. For me it can be a phone call or going for a walk with my husband. It could be a news program or a book that I can’t put down.
When the lifeline arises, I have to tear myself away. That’s why I consider myself a research junkie. When I fall into the allure, I need help to get out of the mire otherwise I will spiral out of control.