Forget Research

I am somebody who does a lot of research, which for me means reading about the California Gold Rush, the westward journey of the American pioneers, anything about Lewis and Clark, and of course the geography and maps ( even the geology of the West, since the Goldfinder Series features a gold-spewing volcano). I love reading anything about the America Civil War.  I am in love with the 1850’s and 1860’s. I am very certain that I lived during that time and that’s the reason I love to read about it. It takes me back.  I love research almost as much as writing. In fact it’s very relaxing at times and at other times very exhilarating for me.

But here’s the secret, a little bit of arcana about writing.

After you do all the research, all the reading, all the speculating, fantasizing, imagining–you need to forget about it. That’s right, forget about it. This is very similar to eating. First you eat, you enjoy your food, then you forget about it (hopefully) and let it digest. Your conscious mind lets go. Then it turns into creative energy that runs your body. The same is true with ideas, the food of the mind.

And so you forget about your research. Why? Because your subconscious mind needs to go to work on all the facts and events and speculations. Stephen King calls it letting the boys in the boiler room get to work. Who are the boys in the boiler room? They are the slaves of the subconscious mind. They work for free. You don’t have to do a thing except not think about them–and not think about your research of your story. Let it bubble. Let it digest. This is not conscious work. It happens while you’re asleep, or working, or eating a cheeseburger. It costs you nothing. The hard thing for some people is to keep the big, pushy conscious mind away the slaves doing the work. I am lucky. Not thinking, not analyzing, is something I’m very good at.

You can ask other writers, but for me, I only use about ten percent of the research material in my actual story and most of that may be pretty transmogrified. Think of grapes when you’re writing as your predigested words and ideas. But you don’t want grapes and you don’t want grape juice (at least I don’t). You want wine. You want the fine wine of literature. Think about that for a while, and then don’t think about it. Now you’re getting the idea. Now you’re forgetting the idea.

If you give yourself a chance to forget about research and let it simmer and settle and bubble you may be quite amazed at what you will write next. It’s as if you have an invisible helper (you do). It’s as if you have an angel whispering in your ear (you do). Ask Mark Twain. Try it. You’ll like it.

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