Sisyphus and Me - The Atlas Obscura Editorial Process in 20 Easy Steps - Atlas Obscura
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Sisyphus and Me - The Atlas Obscura Editorial Process in 20 Easy Steps

It always seems straightforward. Just a quick entry! Somehow, though, it never is.

Sisyphus

(source)

I generally start by consulting my gigantic compulsive list of places to add to the Atlas, and pick one. In this case, it seemed simple: big horse statue, Milan. My notes to self read: “Leonardo’s Horse - the largest equestrian statue in the world.”

Steps to completion:

  1. Consult official website for the project, Milan guidebook, plus a biography of Leonardo Da Vinci looking for details.
  2. Find out that it is not actually the largest equestrian statue in the world.
  3. Find out that it is not actually by Leonardo Da Vinci, but a modern interpretation commissioned by a retired United Airlines pilot out of Pennsylvania.
  4. Get distracted by actual largest equestrian statue in the world - Genghis Khan, Ulaanbaatar - add it to gigantic compulsive list.
  5. Start framing post, commit to two sentences before needing to confirm another fact.
  6. Look up Da Vinci’s lost notebooks, buy books online.  
  7. Look up Da Vinci’s patron - Ludovico ‘Il Moro’ (“The Moor”) Sforza - get distracted by all of his shenanigans.
  8. Add the Sforza castle in Milan to gigantic compulsive list.
  9. Spend an hour brushing up on Renaissance Italian history, and trying to figure out what exactly the Italian Wars were all about.
  10. Find out that Ludovico’s dad was a mercenary who fought with and against another mercenary I wrote about, try to find book on Italian mercenaries - did I loan it to someone? Root through shelves and boxes until found.
  11. Return to post, try to decide between three possible names for same object, in two languages.
  12. Consult interwebs for giant horse bronze casting process.
  13. Blame Wikipedia for another half hour digression when I discover that Lucrezia Borgia was married into the Sforza family (annulled on claims of his impotence), feel compelled to read up on her.
  14. Add tomb of Lucrezia Borgia and her love letters to the gigantic compulsive list. [UPDATE! Look! Added! Lucrezia Borgia’s Love Letters, Milan]
  15. Return to post, add another hundred words.
  16. Find out that Ludovico died in the “underground dungeon at Loches”.
  17. Add “underground dungeon at Loches” to gigantic compulsive list.
  18. Late in the game, realize that there was more than one horse made - spend half an hour trying to sort out which one ended up in Milan after all.
  19. Try to remember where I saved that half-decent photo of the horse on my computer.
  20. Proof read, fact check, and publish.

Voila.  One down, unknown multitudes to go.

Here’s that horse we’ve been talking about:

Leonardos Horse Milan

LEONARDO’S HORSE (Il Cavallo dello Sforza)