Thursday, March 28, 2013

That thing I did

In September I registered for my first MatadorU course. This was kind of a big deal. First of all it was some structure for my life and second it was a step in the direction of a possible new career and third it was something we could tell people I was doing. I know that sounds odd but when you find yourself in the situation where you're the trailing spouse people really want to know what you're doing with your time.

If you devote 100% of your time to this course you can in fact finish it in 12 weeks. If your real life doesn't get in the way and this is seriously the only thing you're doing the 12 week completion time should be no problem. I on the other hand took 24 weeks exactly. I took time off during NaNoWrimo in November and I took a break over Christmas. Also I went through the chapters a little slowly because I'm an obsessive note taker. Sure I have lifetime access to the material but I don't want to assume I will always have access to a) a computer or b) internet access so if I need something I have a little notebook crammed full of information.

Overall the experience was awesome. A self directed online course is hard. Seriously hard. Mostly because the onus is on you to get stuff done. After I completed chapter 3 John triumphantly stated I had officially outlasted him in an online course. I didn't mention the fact that considering we had dropped $350 bucks on the course I wasn't going to quit after 3 chapters. My frugal Mennonite self just would not let that happen. i found the material a good mix of "I totally know that" walk in the park and "They want me to do what?" brain scratchers. Example, pitches. I know how to pitch thanks to my years in non-profit. Just replace "Give me $10,000.00 please" with "publish my story please." Okay it's not that simple but that's the basic jist. Yay for transferable skills. Other things were completely new concepts like stacking assignment, the business side of freelancing and operating within a publications hierarchy.

I really enjoyed the student showcase aspect of it. I got to see what other students were doing. Which either helped me figure out what NOT to do or clarified that I was on the right track. It also offered a source of inspiration when I was stuck. Particularly right now with the photography course.

I learned a metric crap tonne of stuff right up until the bitter end. And I'm not talking just "book smart" stuff either. I'm talking "stuff about me" learning. Most recently I learned that I had really learned how to take criticism. I use to really suck at taking critiques of my writing. Like yelling and tears suck. It wasn't pretty. But now it almost doesn't phase me. John thinks it's all the hate mail I use to get at the student paper when I was in University. Certainly that's a big part of it. The other part is probably that I've been putting my writing out there long enough now that I don't have a thick skin is what it is I think it's more I have an open mind to change. There is always going to be someone who is better and knows better and I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn't listen to what they have to say. Who knows, I might learn something.

Will I show you some of my course work? Probably not. This is something that was just for me. Something I needed to do. Something that gave me direction when I was pretty lost. My bestie has seen some of the work I've done for it and it's only because she said, "I would love to see some of your work" which is code for "I'm your best friend and you're the godmother to my children. SHOW ME!!!!!!" She's very persuasive.

Now what? Well I'm still plugging away at my travel photography course. Which is proving to be much more difficult. Mostly because photography isn't something I've been doing as long as writing. The learning curve is steeper and there is move involved with getting assignments done. Also I've managed to land a few assignments from other sources which has been awesome. They're small but you have to start some where. I'm starting to get my online portfolio in order and gearing up for the Glimpse Correspondents Program application when those go live. As I always say to my friend Anne Marie, "the future is bright like Brighton Pier."

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Speaking of travel writing...I entered a writing contest at expatsblog.com
There are several prize categories but there are some you can help with. There is a prize for the most likes and shares on FB (combined), highest number of Tweets and, favourite reader comment. That's right, follow the link and you can like, share, tweet and comment! The deadline is Sunday evening.


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