But … it’s for Research!

18 Apr

My best friend has always been kind of secretive about his love life. We’ve known each other for over 20 years and it’s only since I’ve started writing that he’s begun sharing his adventures (and misadventures) in the dating world. Why is he opening up now? Well, he prefaces every story about sketchy dudes on Grindr or awkward encounters with former boyfriends and their new lovers with: “Here’s some research material for you …”

I love it. His stories are hilarious and fascinating and way outside my own dating experience. And because he now sees everything he does as potential plot fodder for me (even though it’s really not relevant at all to my current WIP), he no longer guards this part of his life quite so jealously. Because he sees every experience, every encounter, as research material, I’ve started looking at my own life in the same way.

I believe I’ve mentioned before that I have some pretty darn strong hermit tendencies. One would think that writing would make those even stronger, but I’ve found that it’s the opposite. A high school acquaintance is getting married in Las Vegas? I have to go. It’s research. An old friend offers to buy me a plane ticket to Tennessee because he’s feeling nostalgic? Research. A spring-time hike with people who are much fitter and more adventurous than I am? Research! None of these things are directly related to anything I’m writing. I can’t use them as tax deductions. But they’re all things that I’ve done in the last year that scared me, where my immediate inclination was to say “Thanks, but no. I’m good. I’ll just sit here in my cabin with my cats and quietly continue to age.”

Two weeks from today I’ll be in Chicago for my ten year law school reunion. I am terrified and, honestly, if I wasn’t a writer now, I probably wouldn’t have gone. But there are loads of people and experiences there waiting for me. I will reconnect with people whose lives have diverged sharply from my own. I’ll eavesdrop on conversations about nannies and the pressures of being a law firm partner. I’ll drink wine at the Art Institute while chatting with people comparing working in the White House with working for the NFL. I’ll get on the El and be reminded of the press of bodies during a morning commute. I’ll sit in the back of a cab and remember what it feels like to be pushed up against a giggling friend on naugahyde-covered broken springs by the force of a quick left turn. It’s life. It’s research.

What about you? Have you found that writing has changed the way you look at new experiences? Ever justified doing something outside of your comfort zone as research?


Posted by on April 18, 2013 in friends, Idaho, inspiration, research, travel


14 responses to “But … it’s for Research!

  1. Amberly Smith

    April 18, 2013 at 8:12 AM

    What a lovely post. Have fun in Chicago and write us all about it.

    • Corina Mallory

      April 18, 2013 at 10:01 AM

      Thanks Amberly! I’m nervous, but I know that I will have fun.

  2. Judith Keim

    April 18, 2013 at 8:19 AM

    Corina, What a great post and how wonderful that you’re stretching yourself (in the name of research, of course). I laughed because to some extent I do the same thing. Now when I eavesdrop, I tell myself all the good writers do the same thing, and whenmy family and friends make fun of me because I watch the Batchelor (ette). “No, No,” I say, “it’s for research!” I’ve always been a people watcher and continue to do so. In the name of research, of course. Thanks for a fun post! Have fun on all your travelsl! Sounds like fun.

    • Corina Mallory

      April 18, 2013 at 10:05 AM

      Judy you’re so right. What makes characters real are telling details. If we only watch/read/do/experience the things that fall within our normal wheelhouse, we have to rely so heavily on imagination that we risk creating unbelievable characters. Or we end up writing characters that sound just like us. Can you imagine!? I completely endorse both eavesdropping and watching The Bachelorette (or any other low-brow pop culture phenomenon) as research!

  3. Stephanie Berget (@StephanieBerget)

    April 18, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    I’ve never been much of a people watcher. Too caught up in my own life, I guess. Writing has brought me out of that and much more interested in the world around me. For us hermit types, pushing the limits gets more important as we age, although you have a lot more aging to do than I do. 🙂

    • Corina Mallory

      April 18, 2013 at 10:08 AM

      I think it’s just fascinating how writing can make us stretch in other areas of our lives. It seems so counterintuitive because the act of writing is such a solitary activity, taking place entirely in our own heads. But in order to have anything to write about, we need to really live and feed our curiosity and get out of the darn house.

  4. Janis McCurry

    April 18, 2013 at 8:06 PM

    If I hadn’t started writing, I wouldn’t have visited the many states I have to attend conferences. I wouldn’t have made incredible friends. I’m blessed.

    • Corina Mallory

      April 25, 2013 at 7:06 AM

      The people I’ve met have been a definite bonus of this whole writing thing!

  5. marsharwest

    April 19, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    Love your post, Carina. So I’m thinking your life might make a great book. Lawyer who is now a hermit and is only dragged out of her self-imposed exile because someone’s life is at stake! Ha! Not bad for off the top of my head.
    Seriously, you go girl. To Chicago or wherever! All those lawyers will envy your freedom and bravery.
    Right after I retired as an elementary school principal, I went to my first RWA convention. I knew no one in the writing community, but it was in Dallas, and I took that to be a sign. 🙂 That was way stepping out of my comfort zone. Not that I hadn’t been to many large conventions held all across the country, I had. But never ALONE. Always as a part of a group. It worked out fine. People were friendly and kind. I learned a ton, especially that I needed to get with a local chapter, which I did.
    You go and have fun. But report back how it goes.

    • Corina Mallory

      April 25, 2013 at 7:07 AM

      Thanks Marsha! Stepping out of our comfort zone is an incredible rush. It’s hard, and it can hurt, but when it works out there’s nothing like the pride that comes from stretching a bit.

  6. maryvine

    April 21, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    Proud of you for gettin’ and goin’. It is so easy to just stay home, which is what I do most of the time. However, we just got a UTV (side-by-side) and plan to scope out more of Idaho this summer.

    • Corina Mallory

      April 25, 2013 at 7:08 AM

      Good for you! I love staying home. I spend a *lot* of time around my house, with a cat and a computer on my lap, and I don’t feel too bad about it. As with everything, it’s about finding a balance.

  7. Lynn Mapp

    April 23, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    Carina, I am a boring person. I crave boring. That said, you can use those trips as business, if you are “researching” a location to set you next WIP. I don’t know the ins and outs of this. Do some checking.

    • Corina Mallory

      April 25, 2013 at 7:08 AM

      Thanks Lynn! I’ll look into it.


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