American novelist John Michener is famous for his intensively detailed, historically and geographically contextual writing within which he wove his characters’ stories.
A few years back, American master painter John Nieto was asked to consider painting John Michener’s portrait. As Nieto was a great fan of Michener’s work, soon the two men met to discuss the possibility.
John Nieto recounted to me that he used the opportunity to get to know Michener and find out all he could about his life and writing methods. He asked Michener how he went about acquiring the vast amount of detailed information that, after being distilled down, was evident in his novels.
John Michener pointed at his own chest and said,
“You’re looking at the Research Department.”
Think of your life – past, present, and future – as your Research Department! Do you outsource acquisition of all information? Do you carefully verify what you receive to assure its authenticity? Have you tracked your “acquisitions” of knowledge, confirmed attributions, cataloged provenance?
How often have you personally researched – not just “Googled” or “Wiki’d”, but set out into the field (be it your neighborhood, workplace, community, education system, or afar in the World – maybe even your own thoughts – to assure an accurate portrayal of people, places, things and events? Conversations, interviews, referrals to “reliable sources” are a benefit harvested from personal relationships, integrity, and a little hard work in the heat of the day. Remarkably, “original thoughts” may be more likely to come to you as a result of those methods than from rote learning or unskeptical repeating of others’ words.
Successful “Research Departments” are foundational to innovation and creativity, and to the acquisition of Truth for use and transmission to others. Having “deep pockets” to allow widespread travel and purchases of voluminous libraries or a massive staff waiting “behind the curtain” to commence work is not required for most of us, as incredible resources are close at hand and free for the asking.
A commitment to a rational approach, a well-organized system for search, for recording and accessing acquired information, and to verity IS required, and very worth the investment of your intellect, time and engagement with others.
Look in the mirror, and say “hello” to YOUR Research Department!