I have a confession to make – I would rather do research than write. I love doing research, have always loved it. But I HATE writing. Well, to be specific, I hate starting to write. Once I get going, I’m fine and some days I write all day. But I find a million ways to procrastinate and researching is one of my favorites.
Research also includes net surfing. We all do it – we go off on research trails to find answers and we discover many more topics of interest that we need to follow. Sometimes this is great and it can result in some wonderful discoveries. But when it eats into writing time, it’s not.
My second confession: I would rather write non-fiction than fiction. I’ve been writing non-fiction (how-to books for people starting businesses) for almost 30 years, so it comes easily to me. I’m new at fiction, so it doesn’t. It’s painful.
Michael Connelly says, “I’m always writing one project while I’m researching the next one.” That’s what I do, but I find it difficult to stop researching and start writing. (Read more about how Michael Connelly – bestselling author of the Harry Bosch/Mickey Haller novels – writes, in this article in The Daily Beast.)
Back in the late 1990s, when I was working on my PhD, I had to do a series of papers (about 100-150 pages each), with lots of research. I developed a good working process: I would do research, search for books, write notes for a while on the subject-at-hand, then I would sit down over my breaks (I was teaching at a college that had semester breaks) and write like crazy for days/weeks until the paper was done. I usually had the research for at least one, maybe two, future papers in progress, so I could get going on the next one right away.
I prefer to write in concentrated chunks of time, rather than a little every day, for my novels.But I still need to develop the habit of writing something fiction every day, even if it’s just junk.
What I have discovered is that the act of writing increases creativity. The “just do it” philosophy is true, because “doing it” makes your brain work better and you find yourself being creative. Write-to-Done says any kind of writing, including journaling or “data dump” kinds of writing can boost creativity.
If you want help with your addiction to research or your procrastination habit, check out the Procrastiwriter, Shanan writes “Motivation Monday” articles, like this one: “Stop Explaining Everything.” Nicely said.
Sure, research can give you ideas, but only writing takes those ideas and makes them concrete – and sellable.