Tis the end of the semester for my students, which means that they’re mostly exhausted, nervous about exams and summatives, and ready for it all to be over (though they’re not tired of me yet, for some reason – even my Careers class). Naturally, the obvious topic of discussion for this week is how learning is fun!
In all seriousness, I’ve been doing a fair bit of research these past few weeks into things that I know nothing about, to help with some writing projects. For a long time I’ve subscribed to the Rothfuss method of just making shit up (SF makes that easy sometimes) and between getting a sour taste for research from university and how much learning I have to do for teaching, it’s rare that I feel like watching more than a TED Talk. Recently, though, I cracked open my history textbooks from Queen’s for the first time in forever to look into branches of Catholicism in Ethiopia (which I vaguely remembered from a course I took in undergrad), and the act of researching for something fun was actually incredible. I followed it up a couple weeks ago by perusing some more texts for information about Red River, Rupert’s Land, and other topics from Canadian history, and had the same sort of blast.
I’ve also been looking into biology for a different project, designing creatures for some TEGG work I’m doing with some collaborators here in Ottawa. Did you know that there are species of jellyfish that not only have chromatophores (which is the proper term for cells that can change color and camouflage) but can shift their osmoregulation (another term I learned recently) to survive in freshwater or saltwater? That went into a new beastie. Courtesy of one Derek Kunsken, I also learned that reptiles have something called a cloaca. Look it up. You’ll be amazed! Or disgusted.
Sorry if I have a childish ramble this week, but I’ve seriously been having a lot of fun. You might read this and think, “Dude, research should be a given” but a lot of writers find ways around researching (like making shit up) or don’t bother. And that’s a fine practice, but I think I’ve been missing out by not researching more. My brain only has so much creative capacity for ideas, but reading about crocodile habitats or the detailed history of Wild Bill Hickok or who attended the Great Exhibition in 1851 will lead to ideas that I never would’ve dreamed up otherwise. That’s not to say that every project demands research, but a writer shouldn’t shy from it.
So if you’re a student reading this, exhausted by the bullshit that teachers like me heap upon you (though I think I’m better than most), have heart! One day you’ll be able to research only what you want. I just hope the love of learning survives that long. Gods know I had to dredge mine up from somewhere deep.