When I first began freelancing, I spent hours in the library each week researching, writing, and connecting with other wordsmiths. I loved the library’s quietly bustling mystique and I felt intrinsically bound to the authors whose names graced the spines of thousands of neatly-shelved books. With the arrival of the Internet, however, things started to change. Gradually, my library visits tapered off as I experienced the unprecedented thrill of researching at home via my own personal computer. For years, I sequestered myself in my kitchen office, reveling in my self-sufficiency until, suddenly, it hit me: A disturbing sense of isolation.
Sound familiar? If so, take heart. The solution is simple. Just head to your local library! Libraries have always offered writers a goldmine of research materials, books in every imaginable writing style and genre, and a steady influx of new releases to help us stay abreast of current publishing trends. But, today’s libraries offer even more. Faced with the daunting challenge of competing with those high-tech gadgets and gizmos that make staying home so inviting for potential patrons, libraries must continually evolve and innovate.
Years ago, for example, a public library might have one book club, possibly two. But, today, multiple clubs can abound in diverse categories. General fiction, non-fiction, history, health & wellness, sci-fi, ‘chick lit,’ ‘farm lit,’ cookbooks, classics, mystery—the possibilities are endless! Book clubs offer writers a great opportunity to ‘talk books’ on a regular basis. They fuel our personal interests, keep us reading regularly (versus just writing!), expose us to alternative points of view, bless us with new friends and acquaintances, and garner potential readers for our next story, article, or book.
Another huge perk for today’s writer is the impressive range of free educational programs and events being offered at libraries. Recently, over a period of 60 days, the calendar of events at two suburban libraries in my area included classes in meditation, essential oils, daddy/daughter hairstyling, identity theft, de-cluttering, downsizing, computer skills, crafting, coloring, knitting, crocheting, dining with diabetes, journaling, tax prep, photography, demystifying Shakespeare, local history, and memoir writing—and that’s just a partial list!
Libraries have long served as essential, esteemed stomping grounds for aspiring writers. Since returning to my local library, and attending its many programs, I’ve brainstormed great ideas for future articles, gained names and contact information for first-hand sources, observed the interest level and responses of attendees, and picked up on the unique parlance associated with different topics and professions. I’ve learned new things, met new people, become known as a local writer, and had tons of fun! In recent years, I’ve successfully written and sold romantic short stories, mysteries, profiles, and how-to articles, all inspired by library programs I’ve attended. And, just last month, I planned and presented a library class myself: on freelance writing!
Much as I love being a home-based writer in a web-based world, I find balance, inspiration, and camaraderie by interacting with kindred spirits at my hometown library. When was the last time you visited yours? If it’s been a while, stop in soon—and get those freelance ideas flowing!
Wendy Hobday Haugh writes short stories, articles, and poetry for children and adults.
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