Saturday, 17 September 2011

You can't throw that away; it's research! - Jane Adams

We've been having a bit of a clearout, as you do, having finally ventured into the cupboard under the stairs and the Big Cupboard upstairs - you know the one, everybody has one; that place you just shut the door on and forget about. Anyway, we decided last weekend that it was time to see what exactly we'd been storing so protectively. We knew about the magazines; old issues of Fortean Times and Elektor and Television and obscure electronics magazines by husband insists are reference material - and about which he has an elephantine memory. But what I'd kind of forgotten about was all the research notes.
My research notes.
For projects I've forgotten or abandoned or used so long ago I'm not even sure what book they were for.
I mean, I can kind of understand why I have copies of the Police Gazette from lord knows how long back and I know why I dragged my kids, back when they were still kids and tolerant of that kind of thing - and Stuart Hill- up to Lincolshire to take pictures of a prospective murder scene. And I do know what the blurry images that look like they were taken from the bottom of a hole were used for (They were taken from the bottom of a hole. I'd fallen into the hole having fallen over a tree root looking at another potential crime scene). What I really can't remember is why, for example, I needed a report on Sumptuary Laws for the Jewish Commune in Florence in the 1500s.
It is really interesting though and I think I'm going to have to use it...somewhere. I think it was probably for the same project, The Heart of Magic, a book I'm hoping to put on the Kindle at some point and for which I also collected information on boxing, New York and The Egyptian Hall in London.

The folder on Urban Legends; ah, now that was used for lesson plans. We created a couple and released them into the wild - they still continue to thrive, I believe. Every now and then a former student will get in touch and tell me they've spotted one. And the medieval bestiaries were from the time I was still home educating our son - and then they got pressed into service for yet more lesson plans.

Oh and then there were the rejection letters from very early on in my career - not that they ever really go away, of course. I really did try anything and everything early on and have submission guidelines and rejections for everything from erotica (50% of the content must be erotic.) to Dr Who (sorry, too many new idea in this) to an SF magazine that shall remain nameless who simply sent me a rejection slip with the words you must be kidding! scrawled along the bottom.

I suppose it's natural that we keep these things, but working through the strata of a writing life and a career that has been so all absorbing for so long was a little odd. Unnerving in a way. All the time and focus and -yes, in the early days- obsession this represents. What I found strangest was how my attitude to writing has changed. The need to tell stories is still there but that absolute, driven, desperate hunger is not. Which is strange, but also oddly relieving.

So, what did we do with all this stuff? Well, the Fortean Times is back under the stairs with the electronics mags - research, you know! and some of the others are now collated and photographed and will go on eBay because apparently we aren't the only people who collect all these things.
The research notes have been culled and tidied, but, I'm afraid they've been returned to the Big Cupboard, though I've re-stratified, so I can get at the ones which have inspired new thoughts and the rejection letters, those badges of office we all collect; Ah, well they have been returned to where they belong; the deepest, darkest corner of the cupboard where they will, no doubt, fester and manifest as something strange and uncanny.

Meanwhile, I have another book to write and a couple of others to get ready for the Kindle. But not today. Today, I'm painting magpies and baking bread - though not at the same time - and reflecting on the fact that a few years back every spare second was spent with a pen in my hand. There is a small part of me that misses that driven, obsessive creature, but only a very small part and that part has also gone back into the cupboard with the rejection slips and the research notes to be called out when required - you know, when one of those deadline thingys is looming!

Have a good weekend, everyone. I'm off to get out my paints!

3 comments:

madwippitt said...

I'm intrigued by the comment about the magpies: how do you get them to sit still and doesn't the paint make their feathers stick together?

And ah, yes, wht to throw out and what to keep - always a tough one. You can guarantee that the moment you get rid of something, a couple of weeks later you'll want it ...

Jane A Adams said...

well you'd think so, but they actually seem to enjoy the experience.

our son once painted our cat pink. We'd left the paint roller unattended so...the cat just sat there and let him.

Stuart Hill said...

I remember being driven! That sort of gnaw-the-carpet-madness left me quite a while ago, thank goodness. Now I'm only ever driven to the shops.