Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Observing oneself in others

The last couple of weeks, I have gotten to watch someone obsessed with a research project. My wife is interested in tracing her family tree; she is also busy researching the history of our local neighborhood. The two projects overlap to such an extent that they appear to be one and the same to me (same skill-set, same type of research).

On one hand, it is cutting into my computer time, hence my writing time (though I will admit that I am not sure how much writing I would actually be doing; I am guilty of treating my summer as a vacation). On the another hand, it has given me the opportunity to observe someone obsessed with a research project.

I, personally suffer from research obsession. It is a trait that is useful both as a writer and a student of the mysteries (it has proven to be less useful as a college student---go figure). But it does have the side effect of me staying up until four in the morning trying to locate the one fact or figure that will make an entire scheme understandable. ("Just give me ten more minutes; I want to consult one more book before going to bed." Repeat as needed.)

The reason that I find my wife's obsession so interesting is that I have never watched a research obsession from the outside before. Call it knowing oneself though the actions of others.

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