“When you do a hunt, you go where it definitely isn’t. And pick a direction.” –Dr. Robert Ballard, discoverer of the Titanic.
On April 14, on the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Robert Ballard speak at Titanic Belfast, the new exhibition honoring the city that built the ship. And although Ballard was speaking about how he goes about hunting for sunken ships (which he is still doing), his thoughts apply to words as well.
Where do you go looking for the words, when you’ve looked and looked and looked?
Ballard had looked for the Titanic before and failed. He and his co-explorers had used the same technique every time, known as “mowing the lawn”–back and forth, back and forth. The problem was that they didn’t know the ship had broken in half (they hadn’t seen James Cameron’s movie!). In 1985, Ballard decided to look at the patterns of the currents, and it opened a new way of seeing.
There are times we sit at our laptops, and it feels like mowing the lawn. And really, we can go a long way with that discipline. Sometimes, though, we need to approach the page in a new way. What if we aren’t looking for an intact whole? What if we pick a direction and go looking where we know there is no story?
We just might find a debris field.