|Tidy piles begging to be sorted. Figure about 1,000 pages.|
By Gayle Lynds
How do you feel about research? I love it. I really do. Except when I’ve collected an overabundance of clippings and printouts of articles and stories. Why do I do that? In the first place, I’m curious. And in the second, I’m convinced (at the time) all will be absolutely, positively necessary to create the kind of exciting international thriller I like to read — and write.
When CBS Sunday Morning arrived at our house last summer to film an interview with me, one of the cameramen walked into my office and called in everyone else:
|Just 4 of my boxes. Susan Spencer on left, me on right.|
“Look at the boxes!” He’d already aimed his camera and was filming my wall of research.
On his heels, the second cameraman arrived. “What boxes?” Then he started filming, too.
Susan Spencer, the renowned CBS correspondent, joined us and closed in on my wall. She read the titles on some of the boxes: “CIA! Military technology! The White House! Gayle’s Medical Records — we’ll skip those…. Soviet & Russian Intelligence!”
“I’m not good at filing,” I explained, feeling a need to justify myself. “But I don’t mind tossing notes and clippings and printouts into boxes.” Of course that part about not minding was a lie. I’ll get to that in a moment.
They’d never seen anything like my system of boxes. I was pretty chuffed, except of course it’s sorta like someone’s finding out you’re wearing gorgeous gloves because you’ve got warts on your fingers. The truth is, I despise, loathe, and despair when it comes to filing into file folders. I learned a long time ago that all my research will grow into a huge mound that will eventually resemble Mount Everest if my only choice is file folders.
I’m sure there’s some deep pathological fear or distrust that explains it, but in 30 years of off-and-on counseling (hey, I’m a writer, of course I need counseling), I still have no idea why I don’t trust file folders.
For the past 18 months, I’ve been collecting research clippings and printouts, and once again I’ve lost the battle to convince myself to file them into folders. Instead, I paw through the research, looking for the ones I want to use. It’s a frustratingly inefficient system.
But it’s a familiar one. It’s only a matter of time until my inefficiency grows geometrically greater than my hatred of filing. Then…
I’ve got a book I’m desperate to write!
|I’ve tossed 200-300 pages & am organizing – there’s hope!|
I haul the mountains of research, boxes, pens, staplers, scissors, and a large coffee cup to our dining room table. Whew. That was hard. But think of all the news, the analyses, the insights and opinions and historical perspectives piled in front of me! Exciting!
I stare. I take the rest of the day off.
The next morning, I make myself coffee and sit at the table, fighting a sense of being over stimulated. I have to read enough of each clipping to figure out into which box or pile it should go. I pick up the first one and start….
● Hiding money in Corsica. Hiding money is always interesting. Keep.
● Putin’s oligarches and silovicki are restless because the economy is going south — maybe there’ll be a coup, because without their support Putin can’t survive politically. Gotta love that one. Keep.
● Albania is opening up the files of the Sigurimi, the feared Communist-era state security police. Looks as if some politicians and business leaders who collaborated will get rapped on the knuckles. Oh, how times have changed. But maybe there’s a secret in there that I can use for character background…. Sigh, keep.
|With luck, our dining room table in a few days|
That’s it. My curiosity is aroused, which takes me to the next problem — I’m INTERESTED! And that means I have to decide whether to keep reading or make myself stop and figure out where to put the clip. It’s a rough process. But I’m getting the hang of it. (See photo above of fewer piles on the table.)
As you can see, I love research. It’s the disposition of it that’s a problem. Oh, I also buy and read books for background and depth. You should see my bookshelves, but that’s another story.
So dear Rogue Reader … how do you handle the “little” details of your life that you must do but find your reluctance is holding you up?