Undoubtedly, the most enjoyable aspect of my work writing about historical subjects is doing the research. It isn't getting the idea or doing the writing or slogging through the editing or proofreading; it's the researching.
It usually begins with a question I need to have answered or a particular curiosity about something that gets me started. For my upcoming book Dillon's War, it was the urge to discover what my Uncle Dillon had experienced as a driver for artillery forward observers during World War II. Having learned that he had won two Bronze Stars, I got a new motivation for my search: finding out what he had done to earn them.
My enjoyable experience researching for Dillon's War led to a similar desire concerning the wartime experiences of my wife's uncle, who had been a tail gunner aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress in Europe during the same war. What I learned spurred my motivation to research further. Imagine my excitement when I learned that my wife's uncle had been in the air with the Eighth Air Force on the very day it bombed the German lines through which my uncle would drive his tank just about an hour later in Operation Cobra!
In all such cases, it seems, I experience "Eureka moments," instances when I discover hidden gems of information that excite, satisfy, and motivate further research.
For example, I got excited when, during my research for Dillon's War, I stumbled across a document titled Combat History of the 391st Armored Field Artillery Battalion, my uncle's unit. As I eagerly read through it, I ran into a mention of my uncle by name, a description of the action during which his tank was hit by the enemy and set ablaze and telling how he escaped and the wounds he received. Later in the same source, he was named as having received two Bronze Stars and one wound, qualifying him for a furlough. Both of these sentences officially confirmed stories I had long heard told when I was a kid.
Similarly, while doing research for Bagosy's War, I ran across a photo of my wife's uncle being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. I had seen that very medal displayed in a glass-enclosed case on his wall.
Such serendipitous discoveries are what makes all the work of researching worth it. I imagine that such discoveries were what Solomon meant when he wrote, "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter" (Pro. 25:2).
God has "hidden" things everywhere around us--in history (the past), in nature and science (the present), and in prophecy (the future)--not to keep us from learning about them but, much like an Easter egg hunt, to motivate us to find or discover them by looking for them and digging them out. He knows the enjoyment, the pleasure, and the excitement such discoveries can be for us. And they should motivate us to dig even deeper for more such discoveries.
It's sort of like when a prospector finds a tiny gold nugget in his digging or panning. That tiny specimen gives him the energy and motivation to dig more, to persevere in spite of the hard work involved. And all in the hope of finding "the big one."
Such nuggets also are to be found in God's Word. Regardless of how many times we read it through, "panning for its gold," we invariably discover more hidden truths, and each successive discovery motivates us to seek more and to apply to our daily lives those nuggets of wisdom we find among our diggings. Sometimes, it might be only a flake; in an occasional instance, it will be a big nugget. And in a few rare instances, it might be a whole vein, the Mother Lode!
Regardless of the size of the discovery, keep digging!
But this encouragement to dig comes with an important caveat. It can be tempting in all of our researching to forget why we're doing it in the first place. We can get so busy gathering information or chasing interesting rabbit trails that we don't write or submit our writing for publication. Excuses for such negligence are readily available, but the whole purpose of our digging is to share what we're learning with others so they, too, can be helped in some way. Don't be so busy digging that you forget your larger purpose.
We sometimes think we don't have enough information. We'll never have enough. There will always be more to discover. After all, as Will Rogers quipped, "We're all ignorant, just on different subjects." We must share what we do have. So write and submit!
Then we can resume our research--and write a sequel!