The other day, a friend texted that she was going to make herself a Bloody Mary. “What’s even in a Bloody Mary?” she asked me, and off I went to google the ingredients. But searching for “Bloody Mary” also brought up the urban legend that if you say the name “Bloody Mary” while facing a mirror in a darkened room, you’ll see a creepy figure looking back at you. And when I clicked on that link, I got a list of other well-known urban legends and ghosts, and at the bottom of that page was a list of reportedly haunted locations in New Zealand… So of course I had to read those, too. And then I was off down the internet rabbit hole for an hour. All from one innocent question about drink ingredients.
I don’t know if I am easily distracted, or if there are just too many interesting things in the world that I can’t possibly stay on one subject for very long. But I find it all too easy to go down the rabbit hole when I’m researching, or reading, or talking to people, or even sitting in the school parking lot at pickup time. As a kid, I used to read the encyclopaedia; now I’ve got the internet at my fingertips all the time. Looking up some info for an article I’m writing is dangerous, because any subject will undoubtedly lead me to another topic, and another, and another — and then I’ll be at the dinner table telling my husband why the word “cervical” can refer to the lower part of the uterus or to the neck.
As a writer and editor, it’s important that I focus in, stick to the topic, and cull any extraneous details that detract from my point — which is why, when I’m done with every issue of either Tots to Teens or BUMP&baby, I have seven million open tabs on my internet browser with side topics I want to learn about later on, but can’t justify incorporating into my work. I have 61 books “in progress” next to my bedside table, on such differing topics as the history of the Barbie doll, mindful self-compassion, pre-Raphaelite paintings, talking to teens about sex, how babies’ brains develop, the collected works of Anne Frank, and reproductive politics. 80% of these partially read books are the result of me being sidetracked while I was doing something else.
I love reading, and learning. But I don’t think I can go back to school for a degree in “all the weird stuff that I find fascinating but has no practical real-world applications beyond giving me some really bizarre small-talk topics”. I’m socially awkward and find it hard to make friends, and it’s not easy being “that mum” at school pickup who nervously starts blathering on about who makes up the names of cars, really, and what do “Attenza” or “Mondeo” mean? And how much do you suppose the people who name cars get paid? And does each car company have, like, a list of rejected car names, and where can I see this list because I bet it’s interesting…
Yeah. Down the rabbit hole I go. Want to join me? We won’t get anything useful done, but it’ll be educational!