The trouble with research is that EVERYTHING IS INTERESTING. I mean, everything is really interesting. I start off looking for stuff about sisters, and end up reading a mother’s account of how her son went crazy smoking too much weed. Or I try to find out about religious music, and end up reading about anchorites and tithes. (Actually, this latter is an abiding interest of mine, and there’s always a temptation to delve deeper.) I research strokes, and find out about painting. It’s a demonstration of how all knowledge is dependent upon all other knowledge. It’s fractal-shaped: you can start anywhere and travel a million miles along fronds and petals that replicate and spawn their own fronds and petals to investigate. (Fractals: I am also obsessed with fractals.)
I would like some kind of brain implant that allows me to upload the contents of books directly into my knowledge centres. Maybe this will be the next Kindle upgrade. It would certainly make everything quicker. Time is of the essence, because my schedule demands that I finish the first draft of this novel within the next few months. I can understand, though, why so many writers get stuck at this stage. There is no natural end point to researching a novel. You can just keep going. All you need is a library card and an open mind.
In the meantime, let me share a little gem from my current researches. This is from a book called ‘Shadows as Bright as Glass’ by Amy Ellis Nutt, which tells the story of Jon Sarkin’s massive, life-transforming stroke. She describes how in the 1930s a surgeon called Abse was rummaging around in someone’s brain, looking for a tumour, squeezing bits of brain tissue and prodding stuff (this is how those old-time surgeons rolled) when the patient, who was nearing death, suddenly became alert and called out: “You sod, leave my soul alone. Leave… my… soul… alone.”
Pretty freaky stuff.