Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
― Carl Sagan
A lot of writers I know do research, by which they mean (I think they mean) they have an idea for their book or story and go look for materials relevant to that.
I do some of that when I need to make sure my story isn’t full of howlers.
But my own actual research forays when I’m writing fiction are pretty specific: Do I have that date right? Is there any science that supports this flight of fancy? I generally do this after I’ve started writing and found something I need to know more about.
I get the impression that a lot of novelists I know go down much deeper rabbit holes doing this kind of research than I do.
I do get obsessed with subjects or with author, but this obsession is rarely related to research for a particular story or book. It has to do more with coming across an idea or an approach that strikes me as fascinating, regardless of whether I have any practical use for it.
Most of the time, I read widely (or as I put it in a recent senryu, wildly) because I’m interested in an immense variety of things, including things I don’t know interest me until I stumble across them.
My biggest FOMO is of not discovering something I want to know about. Carl Sagan put it more elegantly in the quote at the beginning of this post.
But I also read widely/wildly because this is the backbone of my writing. I don’t know in advance what I need to know.