Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why I'm a Better Student Because of Freelancing

This fall I’ve cut way back on pursuing writing projects and am focusing most of my energy on education—I’m teaching an English class at my community college, and am back in the classroom as a student working toward my Master’s degree after a year off.

I admit I was a bit nervous about being a student again. It took some time, but I got into the groove of being the teacher. I was also worried about ultimately taking too much on and being overloaded with work. I’m happy to say that my workload is busy but manageable—so much so that I’m starting to send some pitches out again.

But the real surprise is how much more committed I am to my class this time around and how not-intimidated I feel by the course material and, yes, my classmates (I always think they have so many more brilliant things to say than I do!) And I think that at least some of this newfound commitment to my studies is due to my writing projects. Here’s why:

I’m more disciplined. I had a highly productive summer and spent nearly all of August hunkered down at my computer writing articles. I couldn’t afford to blow off work (which I’m ashamed to admit I did for many of my undergrad reading assignments) or not meet my deadlines. I find that I’m treating my assignments for this class just like any other writing project, so I’m making time for the reading rather than winging it as I’ve done in the past and making a genuine effort. By doing this I feel as if I’m actually getting something out of it.

Thinking of paper topics is much easier. As freelancers our lives revolve around stories—finding new ones, reslanting old ones, and making them sound impressive in our pitches. Writing academic papers isn’t all that different. Most academic papers are an in-depth discussion or analysis on an element of the reading, just as many magazine articles are a narrow focus on a broader topic.

I understand the material more. Perhaps this stems from interpreting Shakespeare for my college classes, or perhaps it comes from having to understand a topic enough to write intelligently about it. Perhaps it’s a combination of both. Whatever it is, I haven’t struggled with any of the reading too much yet this semester.

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel! I’m a few credits away from completing my Master’s, and I compare this with being in the home stretch of completing the article from hell (and we’ve all had ‘em). Whether it’s prickly subject matter, hard-to-reach sources, elusive editors, or simply not knowing where to begin, writing-wise, there’s a tremendous feeling of accomplishment when you wrap up a killer assignment. If I feel that proud of myself after successfully tackling an article, I can only imagine how I’ll feel when I finish my degree!

What about you? How has freelancing positively benefited you lately?

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