As a freelance journalist, I spend a lot of time reading the media. Often I'll come across an article that I admire, and feel is leaps and bounds above my own work. Naturally, I want to learn from such pieces: but often I struggle to understand exactly why I find them inspirational. Without that, they're not very helpful as learning tools.
I understand the oft-given advice that to improve as a writer, one must read a lot and read with a critical mind. However, I frequently feel that I'm not doing the latter bit as well as I should.
I studied Literature to A-level (age 16-18 - no idea what the US equivalent was), and did well. However as the years have passed and I've no longer needed to exercise those critical skills, they've atrophied. I've become more used to reading and interpreting things on their surface level, and not looking so hard to see what's underneath.
This is of particular importance to me because much of what I write is criticism. A lot of the material I cover doesn't offer layers of allegory or metaphor. But when it's there, I'm sure I often miss it. So I need to learn to be critical not just of writing but other media, and to learn the language of critical theory that goes with it.
There's also an element of self-discipline here. Why look harder when you don't need to? Especially when it comes to fast-paced media where it's easy to get caught up in the ride. When a moment rises that invites reflection, it's too late: you're swept on to the next scene.
So - what can I do to learn more about how to think critically, and to encourage myself to use those skills? I'm aware that a lot of Universities offer free videos of lecture courses nowadays, which on the surface would seem an ideal resource - but almost everything I've found in that vein is STEM focussed.