I’m doing the A to Z Challenge in April using the theme “What to Pack on Your Creative Journey.” Today, we’ll put some Books in our metaphorical suitcase. We’re going to enjoy explorations through information resources, but not get lost in them.
Life-transforming ideas have always come to me through books. ~bell hooks, O Magazine, December 2003
Creative journeys are often portrayed as lonely missions where the creator is expected to generate something totally original from their own mind, the outcome emerging fully-formed.
Maybe that’s how creative journeys work for some folks, but for me I want to start a journey with one fun hour of exploring resources. My creative journeys are sparked by an idea and I fan the flame with books and other information sources.
These days my hour of exploring begins with a search engine. I like to find Wikipedia articles, TED Talks, YouTube videos, and Pinterest boards. They provide background and inspiration on the theme of my journey. I will learn things about my project and find people who have completed similar creative journeys.
Next, I search the on-line catalog of my local library and request a few books, sometimes ones that I learned about in my earlier search. The bibliography of a Wikipedia article often points me in the right direction. Sometimes, I’ll find the book written by a person who gave a TED Talk or was interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air. A few days later, I’ll pick up the books and spend another fun hour looking through them.
I’m a librarian. I love research. In the past, I sometimes spent all the energy I had for a project on the research. I never managed to work on the project itself. Research for its own sake can be fun and exciting – but that’s a research journey, not a creative journey. To make it a creative journey, I want something to show for it, something that I made that I can keep or share — a kind of souvenir.
At the beginning of a creative journey, I limit myself to an hour or two of research so that I don’t get bogged down and forget to return to the original idea. I want to understand what resources are available, but I don’t need to look at all of them until I have a better handle on how the information will flow into my project.
How much research is the right amount for you to do at the beginning of a creative journey?