Research, procrastination, happy endings
The combination of a blank page and a column deadline should be motivating.
However, I’ve heard this duo can provoke a person to employ any number of creative time-wasters, hardly any of which include putting actual words on paper. But I wouldn’t know firsthand. I’m only imagining, because that’s what writers do best. Well, that and write, I suppose, but I’m getting sidetracked and wouldn’t want to do that. It would be a waste of time.
Here’s the rub — writing isn’t just writing. It involves research and procrastination and often some overlap between — where one ends and the other begins.
When faced with a deadline, a writer might find herself scrolling on social media, clicking on link after link sifting through a considerable amount of whatevers and whatnots engaging in activity loosely referred to as “research.” The serious investigative inquiry required by a serious columnist (much like myself) is critical to the writing process, and like a deadline, is nearly impossible to avoid.
In my professional experience, I’ve found a certain amount of research — otherwise known as uncontrolled scrolling — is inevitable, albeit not always required.
The result of this research most often falls into one of three categories — significant, insignificant and beyond insignificant. One is useful; the other two may be, depending on the writer’s talent, creativity, proximity to deadline and overall desperation. Furthermore, separating the wheat from the chaff requires diligence, concentration, perseverance and the ability to click on link after link while waiting patiently for the slowest of pages to load.
Today I conducted considerable research, all in the name of getting it right for you, dear reader. Your appreciation is noted and appreciated — back at you. In order to serve you better, I muddled through the significant, insignificant and beyond, but I’m not one to judge. I’ll leave that up to you.
Said research included:
• An enticing invitation to “Click here to see jaw-dropping historic photos of amazing people!” (Most I didn’t recognize.)
• There was Goldie Hawn eating a hamburger and Clint Eastwood skateboarding — both in 1964 but not together. The takeaway? Maybe 1964 was a pretty big year — significant even. Or maybe not.
• Cleaning hacks, home improvement hacks, gardening hacks, life hacks, cooking hacks, fishing hacks, decorating hacks and laundry hacks. The Internet is full of hacks, and one can conclude basically that anything containing a hack is anything but. In a word: I love hacks.
• The same can be said of animal rescue stories. I watched a few (OK maybe half a dozen) but one about a pup named Xena the Warrior Princess and a boy with autism tugged at the heartstrings. I hate animal cruelty, but enjoy happy endings. Xena the Warrior Princess has a very happy ending.
Research can take you in a number of directions. An hour before deadline, a person might find herself inexplicably Googling descriptions of movies she’s never watched in order to see if she might want to sometime — even though she hardly ever watches movies and tends to fall asleep on the couch when she does. Still, research is research; I remind myself it’s all for a good cause and sometimes you have to take one for the team.
I’m not a total chump and do harbor a sliver of discernment. I didn’t click on every link I encountered. That wouldn’t be prudent or professional (or discerning). I avoided an article outlining the history of the cell phone because I’ve lived out that journey in person. Perhaps I’ll write about it someday. Also took a pass on an image of what Xena the Warrior Princess looks like now. There was no need. I am not and wasn’t ever aware of what Xena the Warrior Princess — in the human form — looked like then, so I wouldn’t even know the difference.
Not that I’d need to. I’ve already seen the puppy story and in my world Xena will forever walk on four legs. Like I said, I love happy endings.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.