By Philip Shaddock
Originally published on Guppy Designer Website.
About two-thirds of what I write about guppies is unpublished. I do not include much of it in my books and I do not post it on the web.
I write as if I am writing for an audience, even though my writing is like talking out loud to everybody when nobody is there. Some would diagnose that as schizophrenia.
But there is reason in my madness.
Writing for me is a way of really seeing my guppies, really paying attention to them in a way I cannot by just peering into the tanks. A different part of the brain is engaged. I draw connections between things that would go unnoticed.
An example. Today I was writing about one of my crosses, between a Midnight Black male and a Japanese Blue Grass female. Because I was writing to an audience (even though the article will probably never be published) I was methodically going through the cross, complete with pictures. Then I noticed something. The pattern on the F1 male’s caudal was not a grass pattern, it was not composed of spots. Rather it is a mosaic pattern. I won’t go into the significance of that insight here, although I wrote a paragraph speculating about it, including the remembrance that the Japanese Grass guppy is said to have originated out of a Singapore Mosaic strain.
It is pretty obvious that the pattern on the F1 male’s tail is mosaic. But in the last few months I had not noticed. Given that I have about twenty crosses going right now, it is perhaps not surprising. So one of the values of writing things down is that you stop and pay careful attention to things that normally you miss. Writing for an audience forces you to make careful notes and forces you to write in a systematic, step-by-step flow of ideas imbued with clarity. It forces you to become somewhat detached from what you are saying so that you can see it through the eyes of your audience.
To some extent it is like the notebooks of 19th century naturalists exploring the world through the medium of the written word and the quick pencil sketch. I have been taking drawing lessons again, so I know the value of a pencil sketch. It really helps you see an object or a scene as it really is. You notice details that you were blind to. Writing down notes about what you see opens your eyes to things you were only dimly aware of…
As it turns out forums and facebook are not good places to record your observations of the patterns and colors of guppies. The computer screen makes a poor reading surface, like trying to read with a flashlight pointed into your eyes. To really come to grips with a subject and explore it in full depth you need the space, depth, layout and illustrations of an article or a book. That is why I do not publish much of my work on the Internet,or when I do publish, it is now in the form of a PDF that can be downloaded and printed.
What I am suggesting to you is that you consider writing down your observations and thoughts about guppy color, biology or care in a journal or a series of articles. Even if you do not intend to publish it, you will discover many amazing things about your guppies in the process of organizing your thoughts, putting them down and revising as a more comprehensive picture emerges in your document. If more people did this, I bet the conversations on guppy forums would become much more interesting and the collective knowledge about guppies would start marching forward at a quick clip.