I’ve spent almost this entire weekend working on the biography. And yet I did little or no actual research. It was all about soliciting interviews and organizing resources.
Jimahl de Fiosa has just published a new biography of Alex Sanders: Coin For the Ferryman. Thanks to a connection via Deborah Lipp, I’ve been able to correspond with him about his research process. He spent 8 months conducting interviews and 2 months writing the book. Contrast this with my anticipated 4 years of research on Isaac’s biography, with an unknown amount of time to write it.
I’m debating putting Jimahl’s book on my altar after I’ve finished reading it. Maybe if I pray to his work I can get mine done more swiftly.
Seriously, from corresponding with Jimahl I know what the critical differences were. He established a strict scope for his book, place limits on his resources (e.g., if you didn’t respond by his deadline, you didn’t get interviewed), and always kept his goal in mind.
I have a very open-ended project; I’m researching everything and everyone, because I don’t know what I’ll want to include. I’m accommodating the wishes of everyone I interview. I continue to pursue interviews even with a lack of response on the other end. I’m determined to code all of Isaac’s papers and files, even when it’s unclear that anything significant will come of it.
I knew what I was getting into when I started this project. It’s more-or-less progressing as I thought it would. But even though I know it’s a mistake to make comparisons like this, I look at books like Jimahl’s, or Philip Heselton’s Witchfather on the life of Gerald Gardner, or Elizabeth Guerra’s Writer on a Broomstick on the life of Stewart Farrar, and I ask myself “What am I doing wrong?”