Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Learning Something New? A Few Tips

La Méditation by Domenico Feti -1589 - 1624I’ve always heard that it’s important to learn something new every day.

But lately, I feel like I’ve been learning fifty new things a day, trying to keep up with publishing and social media trends.

In many ways, it’s wonderful having so much information available out there. If we want to become traditionally published and need to learn how to write a query letter, polish our manuscripts, or pen a pithy synopsis, we can find resources online to help us.

If we want to learn how to self-publish a book, how to format for different platforms, or where to promote a self-published book, we can find that information, too.

This can result in information overload. When I joined a loop for self-publishing info and was encouraged by the moderator to read the archives, I saw a year’s worth of information on there. (And, with e-publishing, a year might be outdated. So you also have to decide what’s still relevant.)

I started reading the information. I had a moment there, though, when I really didn’t want to do it! Now, though, I’ve learned a lot more about e-publishing.

Here was my method for learning something new:

Know what information you’re looking for. It will take even more time if you’re just trying to read everything you can on a particular subject (although that’s definitely one way of learning something new!) In particular, I was looking for information on different e-publishing platforms, where the e-reading public hangs out online, insights on pricing, and how other writers balance self-publishing with traditional publishing.

Pace yourself. If you’ve already got a full schedule, cramming a bunch of information in at once is probably just going to lead to burnout. I found myself getting absorbed in the research, so I set a timer. When the timer went off, I stopped reading up on the subject. I’ve got lots of other things I need to do. Or, if you’re putting off your research on the topic, setting a timer for 15 minutes (or whatever your allotted time is) is a great way to remind yourself that you don’t have to study for very long.

Jot down anything you don’t understand. Sometimes I run across mentions of loops, groups, forums, and sites that I wasn’t familiar with. I also ran into some formatting terminology I didn’t know. I make notes of things to look up later.

Remember that you can contact primary sources for information. Anytime I’ve asked a writer or industry professional a question, I’ve always gotten an informative response back. If you have questions about something, email an expert.

If you have to take a break from learning the skill, make a date on the calendar for picking it back up. Because learning is time-consuming…and it would be so easy to just let it slide.

Don’t try to catch up with everyone else. Just jump in and start learning. No catching up is necessary. Again, pace yourself.

Keep a Word file of the most useful information. It’s sort of like having your own reference file.

Learned anything new lately? Got any tips? And—do you ever feel like you’re overloaded with information and resources?