Episode 44—Philip Gerard on the ‘Thrill’ Creative Research


Author Philip Gerard

By Brendan O’Meara

So in a new segment for the podcast, potentially at least, I’m experimenting with little audio essays about various titles I’ve read and the wisdom gleaned from those pages.

It could be from a podcast guest’s book, or maybe not, but the point is to insert some sonic joy into your ears in well under ten minutes.

It can’t hurt to try, right?

Which brings me to Philip Gerard’s The Art of Creative Research: A Field Guide for Writers. The book pulses with curious energy and equips the writer with the tools to cull and curate information. Like a field guide for a series of hikes, this magnificent title leads you through the vast wealth of information and stories out there for the picking.

Just feel the love and joy coming from the pages when Gerard writes:

I love getting in my car in the predawn darkness, watching the dashboard glow blue and silver and red as I turn the ignition, feel the neighborhood still all around me.

They’re all asleep, my neighbors, and I’m awake and stealing away on an adventure.

It gets at the pure fun of the process. Writing need not be a torturous or perilous pursuit. Because inside all those delightful artifacts lie something buried, something to be unearthed.

He writes:

If I am good enough to make it happen.

And I love it that sometimes I am good enough to make it happen.

I love the moment when someone tells me something he or she never intended to say, the look of wonder and discovery in their eyes, the smiling tears of memory, the clutch in the throat that carries all the story you’ll ever need to hear. The pang of good-bye, leaving a stranger who has just confided his most precious secret, hoping you will honor it—I don’t love that, I never get used to that. Yet afterward, how I do cherish the memory of.

The Art of Creative Research stems from what all writers have—whether they know it or not—and that’s curiosity. Gerard writes:

At the highway rest stops, I can’t help but wonder where everyone else has come from and where they are bound: the chic couple in the red convertible sports car, the rowdy family with all the wild kids pouring out of the camper, the pensive loner hurrying back from the restroom with his hands jammed tight in his windbreaker pockets. I want to get in all their cars with them and go someplace else, anywhere but here, and find out why: Why are they going? What’s waiting at the end of the road?

What dissolves away are the illusions of making it big as a writer, the questions of money and fame, and what is left in the stockpot is a love of narrative, story, making something grounded and reaped from the time you spent buried in research.

He writes:

It’s a lot of work, and it takes some gumption, but it sure is a thrill.

For more about Philip’s book and his process, be sure to listen to Episode 38 of the #CNF Podcast and be sure to pick up his book at your library or at your local bookseller.

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