My cousin had an idea a couple of years ago: an historical novel about a fictional town based on our hometown, set in America’s Gilded Age. We started working on the project and, since then, it’s morphed into developing a script for an audio drama podcast. Since the idea is historical in nature, it meant we had to do a good bit of research. The research has been fun, but it has also come with its share of difficulties.
I’ve always been a minor history buff. I loved every history class I took in school (especially college). Our work in progress (WIP) is focused on a specific time period in American history, and digging into the research has been enlightening. I’m learning things about what life was like in late 19th century America that I ever knew before.
Because our story also deals with mythology and the supernatural, I’ve also learned a good deal about Celtic mythology. Many of our main characters are Irish-American immigrants, so we’ve dug into research about Irish culture and the history of Ireland, too.
So, historical research has been a blast. For a writer, though, there’s a danger to all this research. Why? Because it can turn into procrastination with a capital “P.” During the first year of working on the project, I was so intimidated by the ambition and scope of the WIP that I buried myself in the research instead of actually writing the book/script.
So far, I’ve written six episodes of the podcast script with the goal to develop twelve episodes. I’m at the halfway point. Around December 2019, I decided it was time to put down the books and start writing. Still, as I write I find myself going back down the research rabbit hole and – you guessed it – procrastinating with actual writing.
I’ve always believed procrastination is a form of perfectionism. I’ve read the six episodes I have so far, and I cringe sometimes while reading them. But here’s the thing: they are rough drafts! They’re not etched in stone and, of course, all writing is re-writing. I can, and will, go back and edit them.
One of the hardest things for a writer sometimes is to simply begin. I don’t necessarily have the fear of looking at a blank page or screen. It’s more so the fear that what I’m writing is crap.
A fellow writer-friend offered me good advice a while back that I try to remind myself of frequently: just because I write something doesn’t mean I have to automatically show it to others. Eventually, I’ll show my scripts and writing to others. But sometimes, writing and keeping it to myself is a way for me to practice and avoid criticism I’m not ready to take.
Yes, the historical research has been fun. I’ve learned all sorts of interesting things, and I’m developing a sense of the setting and background for the WIP. But at a certain point, like all writers, I need to put the book down, close the web browser, and just write.
Keep writing, everyone!