Forever a Student

One of the things I like most about the Writer Lifestyle is just how accepted it is to spend a great deal of time doing research just for the sheer hell of it. (The rest of your time should be spent writing, naturally) Lately I’ve been reading up on WWI-era submarines and trying to brush up on my Japanese. (If you want to learn a language, by the way, Rosetta Stone is on sale with pretty deep cuts at Borders right now; I’ve been very happy with their system so far.)

So now I’m going to ask a horribly gauche questions (of writers and non-writers alike): where do you get your sources? When you want to just generally learn about stuff, where do you go? We all know about the easy places like Wikipedia, and we know about our local libraries (even when we scandalously neglect to use them) but what else is out there?

Here are a few of my current favorites:

TED talks are great little snippets ranging from a few minutes to half an hour or so. Weird stuff, like hey, you’re probably tying your shoes wrong.

The Economist magazine, specifically their Science and Technology section.

Khan Academy, which is making an effort to put a whole slew of high school- and college-level course lectures online for free, ranging from basic math to a lecture series on the bank bailout.

Podcasts such as Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time, which is a weekly hour-long show on pretty random academic topics ranging from the Minoan civilization to the graviton to the Sturm und Drang movement. All of those are available on the site, by the way, and Bragg takes care to include a number of authorities on the subject in question.

iTunes U has been an excellent resource, though of spotty coverage and very difficult to search. I listened to a course on game theory out of Yale that was very good (though occasionally tedious during classroom management sorts of activities)


So how about you? Where do you go to further your education?

3 thoughts on “Forever a Student

  1. I adore research, and in almost any format it provides a sense of satisfaction to acquire knowledge in support of a story. This is both good and not so good in that I can gladly delay actual writing by hitting that sweet tooth for story telling with adding depth and nuance through back-story or world building. I have to balance research against actual production and use it for filler when my creativity needs a break or it becomes a self sustaining measure. I have the same challenge with reading and playing games. They are great at satisfying that part of my nature which desires to have stories happen.


    1. Heh. This is an excellent point — one can research endlessly without doing anything with that knowledge. I’ve heard it advised that the proper place for research is between the first and second drafts, so that you have a better sense of what you need to know and what’s not relevant. It’s also helpful as a way to fill that period of creative exhaustion that can following finishing a draft.

      Personally, I think that if you’re an outlining type, that you save yourself a fair amount of grief if you put a chunk of that research between the outline and first draft, but there’s a danger there of never getting past the outlining stage.

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