Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Your Assignment: Drop Everything and Read

I'm teaching a college freelance writing roundtable course this semester, and one ongoing assignment I'm giving my students is to read magazines. Lots of magazines. A variety of magazines.

When we next meet in class, I'm going to tell them that they should spend time each week perusing not only the publications they already know and love, but also any other magazines they can get their hands on.

I'm going to encourage them to go over to friends' houses and raid their coffee tables, to dive with gusto into whatever random titles they come across in the dentist's office or while they're waiting at the vet. (Yes, I know those public copies in waiting rooms are germ central. But come on. So is about every place on a college campus.) 

I'm going to suggest that they head to the nearest bookstore, grab a latte, and spend a few hours perusing the racks upon racks of magazines for sale there. They don't have to buy any, but they should at least loiter for a few hours and see what they can find.

I'm going to encourage them to step outside their comfort zones, to flip through AARP or Modern Dog or whatever other title they come across that might be new to them.

And then I'm going to take my own advice. And I suggest that you take it, too.

Because the thing I realized today is that I don't look at magazines enough anymore. I used to have a voracious appetite for them in college. I'd explore any issue I could get my hands on. It was a passion, perhaps even an addiction. Plus it was basically a requirement for a magazine journalism major.

Now I read a few of my favorite titles when I get a chance, but when it comes to work, I rarely pick up a magazine unless I'm eying it as a potential market.

And you know what? By doing that I'm missing out on markets I might not have realized are out there, on story ideas that might spring to mind as I read an article in a certain publication. I'm missing out on a potential creative spark.

Yeah, I know sitting with a stack of magazines is not anything I can bill time for. It's not something that will immediately yield a paycheck. But for a freelance writer who's always seeking new article ideas and new markets, it's a key step in the creative process.

What magazines do you rely on for inspiration?

Photo: theseanster93 via flickr

No comments:

Post a Comment