To write is to learn. For those who write for a living, it’s a given that you need to be constantly learning about “stuff” and “things”. Most writers will embrace the fact and simply make it apart of their respective lifestyle, as you’re need to discover and learn about new things, topics, ideas and cheese grows (or else you’ll run out of things to write about) you’ll find yourself having to decide between falling down the rabbit hole of one subject or to simply pick and choose random facts an points from different topics. Treating your need for knowledge like some kind of thought buffet.
If you do decide you’ve had enough of stuffing your face with fact salad and hunger for something more substantial, there are a few super-secret writer techniques that can help in depth topical research go a little smoother. Some people find it easier to learn by reading everything and anything about the subject at hand, while others prefer to the lecture format of listening and watching. Many will often prefer to learn by actively going out and doing the very thing they plan to learn about.
None of these approaches are wrong, as there is no right and/or wrong when it comes to learning – as long as you actually do learn. However if you plan to go a little deeper and perhaps differentiate yourself from other writers in terms of your subject knowledge, you’re going to have combine all 3 like some kind triple force of learning. If only there was a way to summarise “triple force” whatever the word would be – am sure it would sound great in a video game…
To make things a little easier to digest along with more fact salad, we’ll break this all down into some bite sized data points mmm pass the idea sauce and a helping of research jelly.
Write all the things! (About your learning process)
Write about your learning process (I know that sounds redundant but stay with me here) take notes on everything you read, think and do. Keep something for recording story and/or book ideas (I personally use either my smart phone or Audacity) The act of expressing everything as you go along your path of learning will help a lot when it comes to further research – also it’s habit forming, which will help massively if your just starting out down the research path.
Read all the things! (To do with your research subject)
The internet, it holds many things other than cat gifs (I was shocked too!) Blogs, websites, forums, white papers and articles all for your reading (and learning) pleasure. Eventually it’ll be worth your time to invest in some “well-regarded” books on your chosen subject, additionally it may help to check if your subject has any dedicated magazines or online publications. Let others do the heavy lifting, it’s the internet way!
Watch all the things! (To do with your topical research)
Firstly, Get off Netflix.
For some, it’s far easier to take on board and retain knowledge by listening or watching others. If this is your bag consider taking a class or 8, joining a webinar or consulting the internet for video and audio guides like documentaries or recorded lectures. I also highly recommend podcasts as many like to mix in an element of comedy and are (for the most part) free.
Do all the things! (Specifically the thing you want to learn about)
Often “simple and direct” is the best approach. Actually going out and doing the thing you’re learning about can result in a lot of unforeseen insight into said thing. As an example, if you’ve gone diving you’ll understand that no amount of research will ever come close to actually going diving. And it’s that kind of “real knowledge” for lack of a better phrase that will set your work apart from the vast ocean of other writers.