The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Thesis Blues pt.3

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I had a hot start last night as I got back to work on things. I needed to find out the exact date of the legendary football game against South Bend Clay that ended Jim’s high school football career. Going on details of weather conditions and the traditional day of the week on which high school football is played, I found what I needed on the Farmer’s Almanac online. I love any way I can find out odd and elusive information; it all adds up to a repertoire of research skills that is a sin qua non for any writer. My favorite recent example is from last spring, when I dug around and found a bunch of information about the elevations and distances of a course we used to run in cross country. The website was enabled to measure distances for you as you dragged a map along a set of crosshairs on the screen. It took some getting used to, but was fun to use. It also enabled me to put some seriously cool details into the story I was writing. You can check out the website here: http://www.earthtools.org/.

I’ve spent a lot of time since last summer transcribing phone conversations I’ve recorded as I’ve interviewed people. It’s a time-intensive practice that I’m not sure has paid off as I thought or hoped it would. I came up with a different idea. I’m going to try to listen to the recordings over and over as I go about my regular daily business. They’re backed up on my laptop, so it’s really just a matter of playing them and listening. I feel this will give me a solid command of the content of the conversations, and this will translate to me writing more intuitively rather than worrying about how I’m going to fit something in. If I want to get exact details, I can rewind the recording and listen. I tried something similar about 6 years ago when I directed a Vietnam-themed play. I wanted to get the feel and mindset for Vietnam as best I could. Each night when I got home from school, I had a Vietnam film in the DVD player. Even if I wasn’t watching it, it was still playing and I was still thinking about it. The process flooded my mind with all kinds of details and thoughts, and that paid off handsomely throughout the production of the play.

Finally, this is why we do research: because memory is not fact. What Jim remembers of the South Bend Clay game varies considerably from what Brad Park told me as he rattled off a string of stats from the statbook he leafed through as we spoke last week. Brad wasn’t too sure of details right off hand, either, but referenced the statbook. He ended up telling me things I would have spent hours trying to find.

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Written by seeker70

December 2, 2008 at 9:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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