Anyone else studying with the Open University? If you are, you’ll know that their study packs of books and DVDs arrive in cardboard boxes prominently marked Urgent: Educational Materials.2014-08-30 12.08.45

Stand back. Make way, there! Educational material coming through!

I’m not making fun. I really do love the idea that education – of any kind, for anyone – is urgent, important, worth making way for.

As a working adult it is not easy to fit serious learning into one’s busy life. Freelancers don’t waste time commuting and can be flexible with working hours; they can make space for study more easily, perhaps, than full-time employees. On the other hand, it is certainly a challenge to follow an organised course of study on top of a packed, and sometimes unpredictable, schedule of intellectually demanding editorial work.

So why do we do it?

To get another academic qualification? Possibly. Some people like certificates. Depending on the field of editing, additional qualifications may or may not be relevant and helpful to a freelancer’s work. Of course, a qualification in a subject does not, by itself, qualify anyone to be an editor in that field. Not without editorial skills and training.

To get more work? Perhaps. That wasn’t my own motivation; and in any case it would take more than a few maths and science courses to qualify me to edit specialised mathematical, scientific and technical texts. Still, knowledge is never wasted, and editors can only improve their work by broadening their minds and their understanding. Apart from the subject itself, becoming a consumer of textbooks again can sharpen up one’s thinking on what makes a good (or bad) information book. I mean really sharpen.

Because we are bored with the work we are doing? Unlikely! Editing non-fiction is a lifelong learning experience in itself. Changing things up can be refreshing, though. Knowledge of one’s own field can always be deepened and broadened; studying in areas that are far removed from one’s usual work topics can be extremely rewarding and stimulating too, and bring the editor back to familiar subjects with new perspectives and renewed interest.

So … are we doing it just for fun, then? Why not? Learning is fun. It’s a teeny bit addictive, also. Once you start on those urgent educational materials, one box can lead to another. I intended to do one short OU astronomy course only, but I ended up following it with two modules in maths and then an extensive introduction to physics, chemistry, biology and Earth science … This from the girl who loathed science lessons in school.

How many other freelancers are combining work with study (of any kind)? It would be very interesting to hear others’ views and perspectives.