About 3 years ago I signed up for a online course with the London School of Journalism. I'd been recommended the course by a friend and also noted that other writers I follow had mentioned doing courses with them.
The course I signed up for is Freelance and Travel Writing. Each unit has a chunk of reading and then a series of writing tasks that I complete at my own pace, emailing the finished tasks to my assigned tutor when I'm ready.
The reading for lesson one is basically background on journalism: history of journalism and printing, types of journalism, types of publication. The first of the four assignment tasks was to write a personal statement including prescribed criteria and with a strict wordcount. For the second task, I had to detail the journalistic equipment and resources I have (computer, camera, books, etc) and my relevant abilities e.g. my computer skills, level of English and knowledge of other languages. Thirdly, I had to provide written advice for someone who wants to be a freelance writer, and finally I had to submit a 'character study' of a magazine of my choice and a 'pen portrait' of the type reader it is marketed to. Each of the assignments has a maximum number of words allowed.
On several occasions over the last few years, I've sat down and attempted these tasks. I've ummed and ahhed, written a bit, scribbled it out, written it again, scribbled it out again, given up. This isn't because the tasks are difficult, but, I realise now, because my head wasn't in the right place. It was far too full of lesson planning, marking, meetings, extra-curricular activities, union work, Duke of Edinburgh Award training, finding time for family, finding time to go to the dentist or renew my car insurance. There was no room in my head for something that seemed frivolous, a mere hobby. Even though it was something I really wanted to do. Fortunately, when I enrolled for the course I ensured it was one with no deadlines as, even then, I knew I'd struggle with time constraints. I just didn't realise how much I'd struggle.
Finally, my head is clearing. I'm feeling like I'm getting to the top of the mountainous mess of my life and the view is good. I can see where I've been, where I am and where I want to go next. It was with this clear head I finally sat down to look at the assignments again and this time I could see exactly how I wanted to complete them. I had to spend a lot of time re-writing to get the wordcounts down to the required maximums and this meant corrupting some sentences I'd really like to have kept as they were, but at no point did I feel as though I was floundering. I knew I could do it. I even enjoyed doing it.
This morning I checked the submission info, attached my work to an email and hit send. It felt good. As well as adhering to the set criteria for the tasks, I've tried to write in a way that demonstrates my writing style and is 'journalistic' rather than just a list of information. I'll know if this was the right thing to do when I get my feedback.
As there are a total of 15 units and it's taken me 3 years to complete the first one, if I continue at this pace it will take me 45 years to finish the course. By then I'll be aged, erm, er ... well, I hope I'll still be alive.