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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Research, Rabbit Trails and Highly Recommended Reading

Oh dear.  We all have nooses we willingly walk into.  Rabbit holes we gladly jump into to explore at the expense of other things.

For me, it's historical research, especially research on 19th century America.  In my last post I mentioned a book I'm currently reading on the history leading up to and including the Civil War but I failed to post a link to that title.

I'm still reading it, and still gobbling it up, highlighting page after page on my Kindle.  My first task is to read the book and highlight important sections (read as: pretty much the whole book--I've had to re-charge my Kindle over and over. LOL!).  Then I'll go back and take physical notes.

The book is Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James McPherson.  Here's the Amazon link (available in paper or Kindle.  I currently have it on Kindle but am saving to buy the hardcover version):

Not only is this book itself utterly fascinating to read, it gives me so many leads on other people and books to read (especially since I like reading about military history) that I will be following rabbit trails for some time.  I will literally be taking notes for months just from this one title.

And that leads to the one thing I still struggle with.  I often study history at the expense of actually writing.  But because of the kind of plots I like, I feel like I need a thorough knowledge of not only a particular event but the wide ranging political and economic climate of the times I am writing about.  That takes time.

Time and again, I've heard other historical writers say you have to tamp down on this urge, put down the research, and begin writing.  I know that is inherently true and if I do not I will have to face end of life regrets about the books I wish I'd written.  But doggone it, at this point in my life, I have so many other stressors, I just want to spend some time enjoying reading history for the pure joy it is in and of itself. 8-)

Not only is history enjoyable to read for its own sake, I find that as a Christian it strengthens my faith because history reminds me that no matter the era, humans make mistakes, and no matter the era, we desperately need God to keep us on track.  So for me, studying history has eternal value as well.

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