Another post I missed the first time around, but which I found while I was being absorbed into Tumblr (this time Gail Simone’s). She starts talking about her number one suggestion for writers:
I believe that a shelf full of history books is the greatest possible idea machine someone can have. The internet is not the same, exactly, holding a history book and reading the close details of our past in particular serves as inspiration every single time. Many, many stories you guys might have read of mine had their roots in these books I bought on clearance at sidewalk sales and in remainder aisles.
That in and of itself, of course, is wonderful advice. I find research addictive on its own, really, though usually I’m after something specific. I’ll admit to short-cutting it with the internet a bit more often than I should. Books take a longer time (and money) commitment, but in most cases, if someone went to the trouble of writing an entire book on something, you know the person’s passionate about it. These days, you can throw up a website in an hour (Hi WordPress! Don’t boot me, please!).
The commitment, though, often leads in a lot of exciting new directions. That source you’re after for one thing sparks you with a detail of something else, and following that along bleeds into an entirely new animal you weren’t even aware you were birthing.
In any case: yes. Hooray for libraries personal and public. What’s even better about Simone’s post is the way that it’s kind of constructed to be just that sort of experience for the reader. It starts as a straightforward-seeming bit of advice for writers. And, since examples are always good, Simone gives some very specific ones. And those specific examples in turn open up into a wider consideration of a not-just-historical cultural dilemma:
This is why I believe we can’t listen to the family friendly rebranding of torture as ‘enhanced interrogation.’ It is still torture. It is still applied to force confessions from the innocent. It is applied for political gain. It is applied to silence opposing viewpoints. It is applied against the poor, the disadvantaged, and in greatly distorted numbers against the ethnic and religious minorities.
The subject matter is, all on its own, worth the time. The craft in building the essay is really some great icing to me, though. Lead by example, that.
So stop letting me internet-shortcut it, and go read the whole thing. It’s worth the time, and it has colorful comic book panels if you need something shiny to help entice you.