Monday, June 23, 2008

Addicted to Internet Research (and Feeling Old)

Ocassionally people will ask me: How much research do you do for a novel?

When I wrote science fiction, I used to do a lot more -- partly because I tended to write about things I wanted to know more about. Interestingly, I didn't research a lot of new scientific trends, rather two-thousand year old (and older) religions. (In case you're scratching your head right now, I used to write about angels in the future, not rocket ships.) But I did skim magazines like Popular Science just so I could add fancy doo-dads that made my future seem possible.

Because what I write now is contemporary, I don't have to make up something new to replace, say, a telephone or a car, but what I find I do now is what I like to call "impluse research." I'll be going along writing about a town I don't live in, and suddenly I wonder, "Does Madison have an industrial court?" and so I hit the Internet Explorer button on the laptop and go and find out.

Like any research, this can be dangerous, because the answer is rarely on the first page you go to. Pretty soon, an hour has passed and I realized I've done zero writing, but I now know a whole lot more than I ever wanted about commerical real estate in Madison, Wisconsin.

But lately, my internet connection has been wonky, and I realized just how much I depend on quick and easy "snatch and grab" research. I find I'm completely stymied if I can't just click away for a moment and come back to writing. I've gotten so used to having information at my fingertips that when I can't get to it, I've forgotten how to just make something up and go on. What's funny is that I'm old enough that I used to write without access to wikipedia all the time. Now the thought of not having it there is enough to completely halt my production.

Do you remember life before the Internet? How did we get anything done?


azteclady said...

Hi, Tate!

Yes, I remember life before I got addicted to the internet--my house was much cleaner :grin:

Heather said...

I was in school (undergrad & grad) so for me time was spent studying. I'm kinda glad to have experienced part of my life pre-Internet just for the contrast.

When my daughter grows up I'll regale her with stories about having to do research using encyclopedias and microfiche. Oh, the horrors!!

Angie Fox said...

I remember being a bit depressed when they got internet at my first ad agency. I used to like getting out of the office to "research." You know, that trip to the library for 30 minutes of fact finding and another 30 minutes browsing through the paperbacks. But when I learned I could fritter just as much time (or more) on the internet, all was well.

Natalie Hatch said...

I remember getting the Amstrads in our school when I was little, you had to sit there and type in line upon line of text before hitting the enter button and viola you would get a little white flashing icon bounce across your screen for maybe ten seconds... all those hours of painstaking work for ten lousy seconds.
Now it's hours of research, zooming across scientific articles etc etc, oh with a few blogs read as well, and whammo all I had to do was hit the stumble button and the thing I was looking for magically appears, so too does Lindsay Lohans breasts but we won't go into that...
Hooray for the internet, hooray that they took it away from the military and made it such a wonderful instrument of procrastination... I mean why should the army have all the fun?