Reasearch or Do?

I spend a lot of time trying to learn ‘how to do things’ rather than actually ‘doing things’. I have always been this way. I try to learn all of the basics about a subject. I research academically what to do to, but have always then neglected the implementation. We all know that the only way to learn many things, the only way to get better at them, is to actually do them. How many times have we all heard that the ‘only way to get better at writing is to write’. From what I have garnered the only two rules that really seem to really be important to improve your writing are ‘to write lots’ and ‘to read lots’. Please correct me if I am wrong.

I have found that I am spending less time on both of these activities and have spending more and more time on reading about writing. I suppose that reading about writing is still reading, but I view it as different. Whilst this no doubt has its place in educating a novice like myself I feel that I need to be careful. I need to be realistic about the fact that you cannot learn everything by reading about it, sometimes you just have to do it.

Often when I have an interest I subscribe to all of the related magazines that I can find, buy up every related book on Amazon and see what courses I can sign up to. Consequently I end up not having the time left to actually do what it is that interested me in the first place. I know that finding out all about an interest can be important, but ultimately you have to do it to, not just read about it. I suppose it is a case of needing to do rather than research.

I must be stronger. I will have to limit the time that I spend on this practice in the future and increase the time I actually spend pursuing the activity or interest of choice, in this case writing.

Do others ever encounter problems like this? Spending more time on reading about an interest than actually pursuing it. I would be very interested to find out.

9 thoughts on “Reasearch or Do?

  1. I am exactly the opposite! I do things by diving right in straight away. Then if I can’t figure it out by the third or fourth bloody time I fail I read about it.

    I do read books about writing just for enjoyment though:) thought provoking, thank you Julian.


    • I have been known to dive into things, but generally I like to know where I am going, where I am headed before committing fully.

      I think reading books about writing for enjoyment is a great thing to do. I love learning about the craft from someone that has succeeded in the field. There are always tips and tricks, little secrets that we can pick up. Immersing ourselves in the minds of great writers is good too. I prefer these types of books to more text book type ones. I am really enjoying Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ at the moment. Have you read that?


  2. I was watching a nature show last night, and one of the interviewees had a title, experimental plant ecologist. I’m sure this title makes sense to anyone in ecology, but I was wondering if there is such a thing as a theoretical plant ecologist. Theorists are very common in physics. When I get a flat tire, I immediately write down the Lagrangian for the system. 🙂


    • I can’t say I have ever heard of a theoretical plant ecologist, interesting concept.

      Formulating a theory about how to deal with something like a flat tyre and noting down the appropriate equations seems perfectly logical to me. Last time I had a flat tyre I formulated a theory, the theory that it would be far better to phone a friend to come and change the tyre for me, than to do it myself. Then I tested that theory experimentally. I am happy to say that the experimental work was a complete success, and involved very little kinetic energy on my part 🙂


  3. Humorous exchange, but back to the topic. What was it? Read or do? If so, others may be up the same creek with me.
    I knew my subjects very well, I’d lived with them as a lad, and I’d listened to their sisters tell secrets about their enforced emigration from their home town to L.A. in the late 1920s. The writing took off like an express train, but came to a screeching halt because I couldn’t remember which railroad they crossed the country on. Research plunged me into a black web-hole from which I haven’t emerged, but it has been fun. One of the women became a real estate sales agent at the newly subdivided “HOLLYWOODLAND” in the Hollywood Hills. Discovering photos of steam shovels and 1925 model trucks and men paving roads in those hills over which I rode rental horses as a boy was a joy and memory jogger, but has not resulted in more writing to date.


    • Absolutely, research can be a real time sink. My main problem is more about researching the craft, than particular topics for a WIP but the effect is the same, too much time researching, too little time writing. I like your concept of a black web-hole 🙂


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