Friday, October 16, 2009

Break Out to Discovery

Welcome to our table this fine Friday morning. We have a special guest. I am so excited that Ethel Herr, author of An Introduction to Christian Writing has agreed to write a few essays on the thrill of researching. (Remember, anyone joining our group before midnight on Oct. 31, 2009 is eligible to be in a drawing for Mrs. Herr's book.)

Mrs. Herr, you have our complete attention.

Lynnda has asked me to write to you about a subject that can get me pretty excited. I love research so much it can threaten to keep me from ever getting my writing done. Some folks hate it and drag their feet or never make room for it. But their writing suffers when they fail to gather the authentication that everyone's writing needs in today's information-saturated world.

So, where do we begin?

You have a compelling idea for a powerful book. Unique, practical, earth-shaking. If you pull it off, it could encourage thousands of struggling souls out there. It might become a bestseller. It could even change the world.

One problem: Have you done enough research to make it crackle with authenticity? To grab your readers with sensory details, word pictures and believable stories? To corroborate your theories and observations with strong, memorable quotes?

Research puts a key in your hands that can unlock the doors to your readers' hearts.

But the piles of information and materials available on even the smallest topic are enormous. How shall you tackle the challenge? Where shall you look?

Experience has taught me that research is discovery and discovery demands at least four kinds of skills:

  1. The skills of an archeologist—the ability to dig through dust and hard packed dirt with patience, persistence and a refusal to stop till you reach the bottom. Never stop telling yourself, "There's a diamond in here somewhere. I will find it."
  2. The abandon of an adventurer—an obsession with going to all the places where the little jewels you need may be lodging. Some likely, some absurd, all (to you) unknown frontiers where you can submerge yourself in the journey. Don't be afraid to tackle unexpected and sometimes dangerous obstacles, to meet people and ask questions and be flexible enough to learn new ways of thinking and doing and experiencing things related to your topic.
  3. The calculating mindset of a detective. Never stop asking "Who would know the information I am seeking?" "Why would they know it?" "Who would they divulge it to?" "Where would they hide it?" "How can I get my hands on it?" "How can I be sure it is authentic?" "What further information does it lead me to?"
  4. The addictive paradigm of a curiosity seeker. Ask questions without end. What is it? Why did he do that? Where did it happen or where is it going? When was it or will it be? Who said this before? What does it mean? How does it feel? What is the mood? Why does it matter? What does it do to my senses—taste, smell, touch, sight, hearing, movement? What are all the theories about this? How might this turn out? Has it been tried before? With what results? Is it a viable suggestion? How will it change my life? My community? My world?...

Research is

a discovery

a fresh wind sighing into the soul

a surprise morsel to chew and savor

a rich full resonance

a hushing spell

an epiphany

creating insatiable appetite for


See you next month!

Ethel Herr

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