When Research Becomes an Addiction (or Procrastination?)

ACFW Advice, Authors and writing, Encouragement, Friends of ACFW, research, writing Leave a Comment

By Eileen K Parsons

“Look. Are you writing another novel or becoming an historian?”

I looked across the table at my friend. “What do you mean? Of course I’m writing another novel.”

“It just seems to me that this research has been going on for a long time. I mean, really, how much is necessary?”

I wasn’t sure my friend understood. While she is a talented writer of non-fiction and has been writing mental health articles for years, she has never written a novel, a work of fiction. “Well, I want the facts to be correct. Yes, it’s fiction, but it’s HISTORICAL fiction. I want the history to be correct.”

Jean shook her head. “I understand that. Your first novel took what, a year and half to write? This one has been going on for over two years. I know you want the facts to be straight, but at some point you have to start the real writing. Every time we’ve gotten together, you’ve told me about some Civil War book you’ve read or some documentary you’ve watched about slavery. This afternoon, it was another abolitionist you’ve researched.” She took a sip from her cup. “Eileen, listen. One of two things is happening here. One: you’ve become addicted to your research. It happens. It’s fascinating, it’s interesting. Or two…” She paused, took a deep breath… “you’re procrastinating. Do you really want to write this book or don’t you?”

“Why would I be procrastinating? Of course I want to write it.”

Jean’s tone softened. “I know you want to write it. Just think about what I’m saying. If you don’t get to the real writing, it’ll never happen. At some point, you need to ask yourself what’s keeping you from the keyboard.”

We said our good-byes and planned our next month’s lunch. As I got into my car, I wondered if she was right. Maybe I had become addicted to the research.

Every book I’ve read, historical landmark I’ve visited, documentary I’ve watched have allowed me to slip back in time, to live – just a little bit – in the past.

My first novel, The First Rose of Summer, is contemporary and required little research. If I hit a bump, I could get on the computer, take a virtual tour of Central Park or observe the fishing boats via the weather camera in Rockport, Maine. I could visualize my characters in those places and before long, I’d be back to writing. I can’t do that with my current manuscript. Set in the 1850’s, there isn’t a virtual tour or weather camera or time machine that will sweep me into the past and allow me to visualize my characters in the setting. I have to rely on the research and my imagination.

I have to make sure every detail, every date, every historical event is correct. If it isn’t, surely the work will fail.

There it is.


Maybe my friend is at least a little bit right after all. Perhaps, without even realizing it, my fear of failure has pushed me into “hyper-research-overdrive.” It’s my excuse for not doing the real writing. It’s a smoke screen for procrastination.

Whatever the reason, it’s made me realize that I need surrender it to the Lord. Just as I prayed and released my first novel to the Lord, I need to do the same with this one. If it’s an addiction to the research, Lord, deliver me. If it’s fear, Lord, fill me with Your peace. And help me get back to the keyboard.

Eileen K. Parsons is an inspirational speaker and author. Her work has appeared in various Christian publications and newsletters. Her novel, The First Rose of Summer, was awarded Runner-up in the 2014 New York Book Festival. She currently lives in Upstate New York. For more information about Eileen, visit www.parsonspapers.com.

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