I got to do a lovely thing today. I picked up some real, live, three-dimensional books. With each book, I turned to the index, put some post-its in the pages that I needed, and added them to the pile on the desk. I was Doing Research.
Research can be a major part of copywriting work. Clients that ask you to quote for “writing time” don’t realise that often, the actual writing bit is pretty quick. Finding out what to write is a slower process, however it can be one of the most rewarding parts of the job (just please bear in mind that I really want to be a QI Elf, so I don’t necessarily speak for my less geeky peers). It’s also great if you get to surprise the client with a nice little snippet of information that can really add an extra something to the writing.
Most of my projects require some sort of online research, even if it’s just to double-check a spelling. I’m not sure if I should admit just how much time I spend on Wikipedia… Yes, I know it’s not always reliable, but it’s a great springboard to other sources that are.
But today was different. Easter customs in Cornwall is one of those subjects that’s so pleasingly esoteric that there’s not a lot out there. However, it’s the sort of field that lots of fabulous and dedicated individuals have written books about, and it was a pleasure pootling through their pages. It took me back to the good old days of the university library, when the only time we saw a screen was to help us find the right shelf.
I have a few more historical things to research over the next few weeks, and I may actually take myself down to Penzance library. OK, I can’t have my usual writing rider of coffee and Six Music; however I can enjoy that eureka moment when you find just the right subject in the index – far more satisfying then using a search engine…
But, I’m not about to amble too far down the (grassy) luddite path; and I’m not about to enter the whole “print-is-dead”, “screens-are-soulless” debate. It’s personal, and largely situational. I can’t imagine doing my job without the internet. It was just rather nice flicking through some books.