Posts Tagged getting distracted

The Research Vortex

In the process of writing, I often pause to look up information and find myself caught in the research vortex. It’s easy to get distracted and find an hour sucked out of my day. I caught myself tracing the historical borders of the Byzantine Empire yesterday. Nevermind I started out wondering when the wildflowers bloom in Utah.

One idea morphs into another.


The same thing happened before the advent of the internet. I’d drop by the library to look something up and – whoosh, there went the afternoon. One night I actually got locked inside the university library. I was squirreled away in the stacks following the trail of an obscure reference and everybody…went home.

Mine. All mine.
Score! I had the library ALL TO MYSELF!
My head is so full of useless trivia it can be alarming to casual acquaintances. None of it bubbles to the surface without a memory jog though, but when a trigger event occurs, stand back. Verbal gush.
A colleague once got an ear-full while we were standing in front of the rhinocerous enclosure at the Oklahoma City Zoo. Most of the world’s megafauna departed along with the Pleistocene and the remaining specimens are uniquely adapted to specific…blah, blah, blah.
Don’t invite me to parties. I hunker in the corner with my cup of alcohol and mutter to myself while I people-watch. I have a friend who has a similar situation with dates. Ask her what we were doing on August 20th in 1996 and she can pretty much recall the details. Her process only works in association to calendrical dates though – I’m still trying to remember where I was living that year.
Why? Why? Why?

Mind, brain matter and memory are weird things.

I love doing research. I’m also a list-maker. Put the two practices together and I make lists of things to research. I found one recently, scribbled inside a travel journal from years ago: is there a link between tetrapod polydactylism and dwarfism. If I’d recorded the date, I could call my friend and ask her what the hell we were doing to be wondering about such a thing.
Today, I keep a file on my computer with a list of subjects so interesting, they require additional future investigation. Some of what I find will weave itself into a story, or inspire new lines of inquiry. Curiosity is why I became an anthropologist…always wanting to know one thing more. I still do.

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