Authors as Autodidacts: The More You Know

What is an autodidact? Is it just someone who is well read, or who knows a lot about a number of things? No. An autodidact is a someone not only who is self-taught, but who is also still learning.


There is nothing wrong with structured education. In fact, many self-learners got their love of learning from a formal education background. But there are a number of benefits of being a self-learner.

Career: With few career exceptions, no one has to do more research than an author, especially if you are like most authors and also do freelance writing or something else to make a living. Write what you know does not mean what you think it does: writer’s are constantly researching and expanding their base of knowledge.

Writers who are also proven researchers often work in the field of business intelligence, where they gather information, analyze it, and summarize it in written or presentation form for decision makers. Smaller companies who cannot afford full time staff often hire freelancers for such positions. Being an autodidact makes an author or freelancer an ideal candidate for this type of work.

Cognitive Issues: Many authors struggle with some kind of mental illness, and there is even some debate about whether or not they should try to heal, but they often come across as really sharp people.

The reason is simply that cognitive issues are mitigated by lifelong learning, and self-learning may be even better than continuing formal education. Remaining connected to intellectual pursuits of any kind has been cited by the World Health Organization as “active aging” and a deterrent to ailments like Alzheimer’s and other mental diseases.

Natural vs. Acquired Curiosity

There are some people who seem to be just drawn naturally to learning. They love libraries, museums, and it seems like they are always taking a college course, community class, or engaging in learning in some other way.

However, even if you are not a natural learner, you can train yourself to be an autodidact, and reap not only the benefits listed above, but also the value that additional knowledge will bring to your writing work, no matter what genre you write in.

Make Time To Learn: Make learning a part of your everyday routine. Take classes often or just engage actively in research on a topic that interests you, even if it is not directly related to what you are doing at the moment.

Find Your Best Times to Learn: Everyone has their own rhythm, and times when they function best mentally. For me, writing early in the morning works best, while other learning and activities can take place later in the afternoon. I save other tasks that require less mental skill for later in the afternoon, when I tend to hit a lull. Find the time that works best for you, and include learning in your schedule.

Keep Track of What You Learn: This might sound silly, but sometimes as authors we get caught up in the day to day of writing, research, and all of the other tasks we need to do, and don’t keep track of our progress, especially in these secondary areas. Making a record of your learning lets you see progress, and look back on significant accomplishments. Not to mention it looks good on your LinkedIn profile.

Learn Your Way: Use your learning style. There are tons of ways people deliver content about different subjects, from podcasts to webinars, blog posts to video presentations. Find information that caters to the way you learn, and use that method whenever possible. Although it does not hurt to stretch the ways you can learn: sometimes a different learning style is just the method you need to grasp and elusive subject.

Competitive Advantage

As fiction writers, we are not really in competition. There are enough readers out there for all of us, and we don’t have to fight over them. When it comes to freelance clients, the same thing is true, to an extent.

However, if you are going after a regular paying freelance gig that is pretty lucrative, the likelihood is that another freelancer might be going for that same job. It’s helpful to not only know your competition, but know how to stand out from them.

One of the simplest ways is to have a lot of education on your resume in a variety of areas, and even let your prospective employer know you are an autodidact: self taught in a number of areas and able to learn a new one quickly and thoroughly.

The more you know, as an author and freelancer, the more valuable you are. The more value you bring to your writing, the more compelling it will be for your readers. The knowledge you have as a freelancer makes you more valuable to the companies who will hire you.

This post is contributed as Guest post by Troy Lambert.

Contribute a post to Being Author Blog [Submit NOW]