Freelance Writing: Simple Tips on Complicated TopicsExtracting Information: Don’t Miss Any of Those Important Ideas, PART 3

informational techniques It’s pretty hard to find some time for writing a new blog post when there is so much stuff to do: contests, press releases, etc. But our editors will always find time to share some freelancing goodies with you.

This is the third part of our article, dedicated to information, and how freelance writers should handle it. You can find part 1 – here; and part 2 – here. But let’s go with part 3.

As freelancers, our time, and our brains, are our stock-in-trade. We need to optimize our use of both in order to make the effort pay off. We have discussed, in two previous posts, some suggestions for capturing useful ideas and data from the whirlwind of information swirling around us. Where to direct our attention, how to decide what to retain, how to build on previous work – these are just a few of the strategies outlined. There are so many stimuli bombarding us daily – how can we snatch the most useful from the air, as it were, and use them to improve our writing overall? Some strategies follow.

Previously, we noted that there is a certain repetitiveness to the topics that we see in Available Orders. To anticipate what sorts of books, texts, and assessment questions are hot picks, check out syllabi from various colleges that are posted online.

A random example, this analysis essay mentions The Communist Manifesto as the basis for the first writing exercise – not a surprise, but if you have not read it, you would not be able to help a student from this course. Some school districts also post their syllabi, expectations, acceptable texts, and diploma requirements online, for example, Alberta, Canada.

Look for book titles that are mentioned in any such course guidance in your local second-hand stores and jumble sales, or in the dumpsters outside student housing at the end of semesters. Look, as well, for books on the themes and subjects that are frequently assigned to, or selected by, clients (if you find A Documentary History of Art, by Holt, grab it!). Assemble your own classics mini-library.

Hang on to documents and links to resources that you acquire through your own previous gigs. These constitute a valuable basis for future writing on related topics. Especially when a customer has provided carefully (and arduously) scanned or imaged articles from hard-copy works, it is a shame not to retain such materials. Often the books that are used in courses such as art history, or in the sciences, for example, Art in Theory, 1900-2000, (ISBN10: 0631227083), are expensive even second-hand, costing about 25$ in a recent search online. This particular volume is not entirely available on GoogleBooks without purchase. Filing such material in a retrievable fashion is key – perhaps more on that anon.

In a related strategy, when preparing to bid on a fascinating assignment, take note of any attached supporting documents. If you see an article drawn from a source to which you do not usually have access (e.g., an out-of-print book, or specialized scholarly journal), consider making a copy, or at least some detailed bibliographic notes. Find out your employer’s policy on this first. Be careful about copying anything that could be construed as proprietary, confidential, or classified.

The idea here is to take advantage of the fact that a useful, published article or book has already been scanned into a digital file (often with great effort by a customer). You are not trying to get access to things to which you have no right as a reader. You are, however, indeed, potentially bypassing the requirement for a subscription to the journal or the online library that aggregates the material, or tuition in the college from whose library the material was originally copied. If this either breaches your company’s policies, or keeps you awake at nights, then merely note the full citation information, and try to find the article elsewhere.

Then, when bidding or working on a related topic in the future, you have a leg up on research. If this material is available only through a subscription library, you still have the option of proposing it as a source to a client. They may be able to determine whether their institution holds the document in their collection, and get you a copy, one way, or another.

Keep track, as well, of research you do independently as part of your bidding process. Such serendipitous inquiry can often uncover treasures that could be very helpful in the future. The secret of this strategy is to label all files such that you can find them again. We can perhaps pursue that idea in another blog post.

Read, listen, and look outside your comfort zone – whether in newspapers, magazines, or in looking at art galleries or listening to music. This is especially true of online research where our searches are often automatically tracked. There are several newly crucial reasons to follow a contrarian practice of deliberate intellectual wandering and peregrination, some of them rather disquieting for those of us who live and die by research on the web. This issue really needs to be examined in greater depth in a somewhat related post.

The world around us offers tremendous opportunities to increase our trove of knowledge for future assignments. Keep your eyes, ears, and minds always open, in order to stay fresh and informed as a writer! Check back soon for new articles.

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