I love the scene in Wall-e when the captain of the Axiom, a giant space ship on which humanity has lived for 700 years, begins to casually research the Earth he has never seen. He is overwhelmed by the colors and culture of the world he left behind. A question about dirt leads to an explanation of farming, music, and dance.
Source: Sebastian Grünwald, Wikicommons
That’s how I feel when I “write what I don’t know,” finding each new thought and fact fresh and exhilarating, leading into the next great discovery.
Maybe that’s why I’ve always chosen topics a bit far from home. 1960s music. The link between weather and emotions. My current project is about a sea turtle rescue worker, a topic which I, in land-locked Ohio, had to research thoroughly.
Source: Ukanda, wikicommons
And yet, this distance allowed me to write with curiosity. Sea turtles are fascinating creatures, from their long lives to their longer migrations, to the fact that we know so little about their life-cycles beyond the nesting process.
Even more fascinating are the people who work to protect them. Volunteers get up at six in the morning to search for nests. If they find one too close to the shore, they will painstakingly move the entire nest, egg by egg, making sure not to change so much as the angle at which the eggs lie.
My research has led me from Florida to North Carolina. I have seen turtles recovering in a hospital, and watched hatchlings struggle toward the ocean. I have done my best to become an expert on sea turtles in order to write about them honestly, as I whole-heartedly believe the truth is just as awe-inspiring as imagination.
Do you write what you know? What’s the most research you’ve ever done for a project, and what fascinated you about it?