I love research

Ugh, so many writers say. Now I have to do research. Why can’t I just write?

Turn your attitude around.

Once upon a time I received an offer to work for a company called Forrester Research. “What is the job?” I asked. “You do research about questions people want to know about, then you write about what you find,” they answered. “What if I don’t know about the topic?” I asked. “Well, that’s why it’s called research,” they explained.

Wait a minute, I thought. You mean you’re going to pay me to find out about stuff I don’t know about and then write about what I find? Sounds awesome!

And it was.

Research is a passion

Now I ghostwrite and edit books. I start knowing a little about the topics, but inevitably have to learn a lot more.

So I talk to people who’ve done what I’m writing about. Some of those conversations turn into case studies. I get to hear about people breaking new ground and what they learned. That’s awesome.

I also talk to experts. They tell me the results of all the time they put into learning things that nobody else knows. I love hearing about what they know. It tends to be exciting stuff.

I read news articles. I read science papers. I read other people’s analyses.

Inevitably, what I read raises new questions. Then I get to track those answers down.

I form my own hypotheses. My experts explain why I’m hopelessly naive, or how I can go even deeper in my understanding.

Then I assemble all that research into a fat outline and write about it.

And — get this — people actually pay me a decent amount to do all this. Including the research. I get paid to learn about interesting questions and find things out.


Loving research

If you don’t enjoy learning new things — if you’re not curious — then don’t become a writer. Writing will be a slog for you.

But if you do enjoy the endless quest for knowledge, and then assembling it into a form that’s interesting to consume, then you should definitely be a writer.

(AI doesn’t “enjoy” anything. It treads where others have already been, it doesn’t attempt to break new ground. And it writes in a boring way. AI is not going to replace writers of any ability, it’s just going to replace hacks.)

This is the greatest job in the world. And you can keep doing it until you’re too old to type or speak — in other words, for nearly your whole life.

Nothing compares.

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  1. Be careful there, Josh. If you make this field too attractive you’ll work your way out of a job. Well, not you personally, but ….. 🤓

  2. I love research, too. I’m doing a lot of it for both the historical novel and the non-fiction book I’m working on. Granted, it can be really easy to get sucked down into a research rabbit hole, but many times there are amazing treasures waiting there to be discovered, unrelated or only distantly related to the reason I went down the rabbit hole in the first place. And I think this love is also one building block in the foundation of editing and proofreading – most works require digging below the surface to confirm or correct any given piece of information.