On-Line Writing Course #2 in-progress

So this is how I’m getting on with the course on-line, focusing on 5 responses to my experiences so far. In my post about learning aims, I left you as I was about to enter the on-line site. Immediately I experienced something that was familiar but unexpected:

1. Disorientation

Remember when you first went to school, college, university? You found the building and stood in the hallway looking at all the signs, the many doors and the other people who all appeared to know what they were about. It was like that. I got onto the site, which looked just like a Facebook page, by which I mean lots of possibilities with no clues about how to proceed. So what to do? I hadn’t expected to feel so lost or uncertain. Where do I go? How do I find out? Have I time for coffee? I don’t want to be here.

145 writing keyboardI was surprised by my own sense of powerlessness, and of the familiarity of these feelings of disorientation from all the occasions when I had begun courses in the real world. And even more surprised because I have sat on the other side of the screen, as it were, and done some on-line tutoring. Hah!

I like the idea that being intelligent means knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do. I had been emailed some joining notes. First find your group.

And now, after three weeks I know exactly where I’m going and I go there. I ignore all distractions, invitations to chat, linger and discuss the writing ideas of other people. I go straight to my course and do my stuff.

Note to self: remember you always feel like this when a course starts. Just get to the right place at the right time.

2. The seduction and distraction of praise

Praise is such a difficult thing. I’ll be honest, I’d love people to be stunned by my writing, exclaim over its brilliance, its depth, the imagery and characterisation etc etc. But I notice that when I am praised (and I have been!) it gets in the way of reading the other bits that will be more helpful in the longer term. This is, after all, a course about self-editing and my intention is to improve my novel with the skills learned.145 emoticon

Feedback is a wonderful thing and I am getting a great deal out of both receiving it and giving it. But if there is praise I have to steer myself past it to see the stuff that I need. I have discussed praise in other places (see Annethology and Norah Colvin’s blogs for example) and its relevance to learning.

Note to participants: please don’t stop the praise if you think it’s deserved. I will get to that useful stuff.

Note to self: it’s about time you ditched this childish need, it is in danger of inhibiting your learning.

3. Disadvantages of being on-line

In a classroom I would hear all the contributions of every participant. As we make our comments on each other’s topic lines this is not quite so easy. I would have to check 14 lines every time I entered the site, as well as checking the Wall. It’s permanent so it has advantages, and it’s not that difficult. But I have to make the effort, which is challenging when I’m in a hurry.

4. Advantages of being on-line

On the other hand, we are freed from the restrictions of all turning up at the same time, in the same place. Suits me. And the comments wait until I’m ready.

5. Learning

And I’m learning lots. I wanted to develop some skills, and some insights into my novel and the work I need to do to take it from a first full draft to a better crafted second draft. I am beginning to see how I could do that. I’ll say 145 inkwell noun projmore about this in a later post.

A major issue for me now is that I also want to steam ahead with another writing project (non-fiction) with a March 2016 deadline. The three authors had a 3-day write-in last week, so I’m brimming with ideas. How will I manage both?


Any comments about on-line writing courses? Anything from my fellow participants? Or tutors?


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Filed under Learning, My novel, Writing

10 Responses to On-Line Writing Course #2 in-progress

  1. Glad you’re enjoying the course, despite its challenges. Coincidentally, I’ve just put up a post on editing anxieties. Don’t be too hard on yourself about the addiction to praise, surely it’s okay if it doesn’t blind you to the other stuff. (And here’s the link to where we discussed this on Norah’s blog http://norahcolvin.com/2014/02/16/examining-praise-stephen-grosz-the-third-instalment/
    I’m reminded that the first writing course I did was online, and it was tricky negotiating the software, and this was in the days before broadband.
    Sounds like you’ve got a lot on with your different projects. Hope you manage to juggle okay!

  2. Helen Ashley

    The only online course I’ve taken was one from the Poetry School, and it was quite different from what you’re doing. Particularly your point 4, above. This was in 5 fortnightly blocks, and we did all have to turn up at the same time. We had to write on a given subject, upload this ‘work in progress’ by Friday, then all log in together on the following Wednesday for a 2-hour feedback session from each other and the tutor, and to be given the next subject.

    No complicated website to navigate, but I’d never done instant messaging before, so that was quite daunting. And I always thought the other participants’ poems were far superior to mine, so I was always wary going into the feedback sessions. Sounds like I needed one of your ‘Notes to self’, Caroline!

    I only really completed one of the five poems set by the course. It got good comments from the group and the tutor, which worried me, as it was completely alien to my style. I only dared to read it in public once (to a nondescript reaction), and I could never send it out for possible publication. Maybe I just chose the wrong course.

  3. Thanks for sharing your continuing thoughts on the online course. When I read about your initial disorientation I had to remind myself that you were online. The feelings are similar to those experienced starting at any new place – it always takes a while for familiarity and comfort to settle in.
    Your discussion on feedback is interesting, and thank you for linking back to my blog (and Anne to the post) to previous discussions we have had on this topic. I agree that constructive criticism is important for growth, but sometimes a sprinkle of praise is necessary to maintain the motivation (I’m feeling that at the moment!).
    I began a six week online story writing course a few years ago. As for Helen, we were set a task and given a time for completing and uploading it (one week). It took me a while to figure out the site and various tools we were meant to use (like ‘noodles’, if I remember correctly, but not the eating kind). I think we were meant to receive feedback, but I don’t remember receiving anything, or anything constructive, and I didn’t finish the course. I can’t remember what aspect of life (or attitude) got in the way, but something did. I think it is important to feel that the time spent and learning is worthwhile.
    You certainly sound busy. I wish you success with all your projects. 🙂

    • Caroline

      Thank you again for your encouragement in your comments: Helen, Anne and Norah. And for these different experiences. Rather sad that some on-line courses have not done the business for participants. I think I will look at why that might be when I have dompleted mine – end February.
      Perhaps the technology has moved on so that the all-together-now aspects of the course can be avoided.In particular, Norah, your course sounds like it did nothing for you.
      I hope you arent put off trying again if it seemed right. I’m loving it (typo: said living it just now) and when I have finished blog stuff will be looking at week 4’s material.
      Thanks for all comments.

  4. Happy to hear you feel you’re making progress on the course, Caroline. We’re certainly happy to have you there. I do believe you need to think about how you feel about receiving praise though. If it’s not based on anything real, then I agree it’s pointless and empty. It’s just an ego massage with nothing to back it up. If, on the other hand, it highlights something that you’re doing well, and explains why it works, that should enable you to use the same technique or device elsewhere when it’s needed to lift a passage. In that sense, it’s as useful as spotting things that need more attention – the answer to how to improve whatever it is might lie in that praise you received.

    • Caroline

      Thanks Debi, especially for taking the time to write a comment, and you so busy! You’re a wise bird, and I will think about the praise thing, because I may be making it more of a problem than it is. I have got some good personal warnings and strategies in place about praise.I should now use it.
      Come again to my blog!

  5. Eileen

    Fascinating. Another brilliant blog – praise – praise!!

  6. Eileen

    Another brilliant reply!!!

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