Posted by: jeannineatkins | December 20, 2008

Research in the Afternoon

When my daughter started school, I started using that nine to three time to focus on writing. Or, you know, try to focus on writing. To say I was focusing on writing. In any event, some writing got done.

At that time, about 15 years ago, the Internet wasn’t part of my life, but research was, since most of my books draw on history. Research meant going to the various wonderful libraries in our community and plunking myself down at certain sections, wiling away an hour or two before making choices that could fit in a big canvas bag. It was kind of dusty work, not that the libraries weren’t clean, but those floors I ended up on aren’t really meant as seats. I loved it. Reading other peoples’ words is generally easier than writing my own.

Once I took my precious haul home, of course those books cried out to be read. I needed details for my books! I needed information! I ended up making a rule for myself: no research until after 3 p.m. The earlier hours were for writing. When my mind was a bit sharper and I could count on more uninterrupted time.

Once I started using the internet, research changed, though I still favor old books with their less edited, less culled-over lore, their surprises. But if I’ve got a question say, about a year, or what people might have eaten or been wearing at that time, answers might be a few taps, and many detours away. Did someone just mention teal in the 1980s, Linda lurban? Then a particular type of sweater, and is it available, and who have I forgotten for the holidays… etc. etc. that’s the nature of the mind. Who doesn’t love a distraction? And research can turn on a dime into distraction.

So though my daughter no longer comes home at three, I still try to keep that hour which at this point is kind of wired into me as much as the dogs’ know their time to go for a walk. I don’t want to say no research, no distractions: I’d self destruct. But a little time limit helps me to keep the mornings more intact.

And in current good news. My daughter’s on the plane home!



  1. Isn’t it funny how our internal alarm is set?
    My sons’ bus arrived at 2:10 and I still have the “I have to rush home and meet the bus” every day by 2 feeling. My brain knows when it is almost 2!
    I had more than one project going each day, but the only way I finished the picture book was to put the others aside and focus on the finishing.
    Yay about your returning daughter! We are happy to have a house full of college people and they are so happy to be home!

  2. I know what you mean. If you dip into that research too early in the day, well…there goes the day! I find myself, on the nonfiction project, though able to mix it up a bit–I can look into a book for a specific thing I need & it actually gets me writing again.
    Bet you don’t get much research done while your daughter’s home THIS time! 🙂

  3. I am such a research junkie and unfortunately am not as disciplined as you are to keep a reserved time to indulge.
    I am so happy to hear that your daughter is on her way home!

  4. Enjoy that household! We had some quiet time, now she’s napping with the dog at her feet. Just the way she wanted.

  5. Well, daughter’s internal clock is saying: sleep — at the moment. Then she’s picking up a friend at the airport tomorrow… it’s back to being flexible, enjoying while she’s here, then picking up the work when she’s gone.
    But the airport hug. Makes it all worthwhile.

  6. Researching is good!
    Safe arrival, and not even too late. Yay! Thanks for your good wishes — and happy holidays!

  7. I’m so glad she’s on her way home.
    And yeah, there’s a time for research – and it really can expand to fill all the time, if you let it. At least, that’s what I’ve found with Jane. Some of the poems have literally dozens of hours of research behind them. Even if the poems aren’t all that long!

  8. Thanks, Kelly. She’s tucked away in her own bed now, which is very peaceful.
    Those hours of research will show. Not in length, but in what’s so well selected.
    Happy holidays to you!

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