University, Up Close & Personal

Graduation and The End of Study.

GraduationAfter several long years, my University studies are finally over and well and truly behind me. On 21 March, I attended my graduation ceremony. It was a day that held mixed emotions for me; I was so nervous I was dreading every minutes of it, yet wanted it over with at the same time. I felt so uncomfortable, and having to wear the outfit and hat didn’t help (at least I wasn’t alone in that – I could look silly along with hundreds of others)!

My husband insisted I attend and I’m glad he did, for I know I would regret it if I didn’t. Graduating like this was something I would never do again, as I have no intention of furthering my studies. I received a degree I did not require to further my career; I studied because I simply wanted to. Years ago I wanted to study for a Bachelor of Arts, yet family members mocked it, labelling it a ‘Bachelor of Bludging’. Certainly there were some subjects during the course of my studies that I didn’t find too difficult, and I can see how the arts are perceived, yet I was not satisfied with cruising through University. If I was going to study, I was going to do it properly and work hard to earn that degree. And I did. In all twenty-four subjects, I only received one pass; the rest were credits and above. I studied because I was interested in learning and I wanted to further my writing skills, as well as learning to discipline myself and work to deadlines. My studies were completely online – never once did I attend lectures like my husband. Writing is a solitary occupation; studying in this way helped prepare me for the future.

Sitting and waiting in the back row.
Sitting and waiting in the back row.

It wasn’t until almost two weeks later, that the reality really sunk in. I had never realised until I was home alone for a few days just how much time I had devoted to my studies. It has been a lot of hard work and it has certainly been rewarding. I feel that my writing has become stronger by it – so much so a lecturer once asked if I was going on to do my Masters. Writing full time is going to need the same amount of discipline and hard work, but through my studies, I know I can do it. Sometimes, we don’t know what we can achieve unless we really try.

What have you done that you felt you really had to work hard for? Do you struggle with discipline? Have you ever done something that others have mocked you for?

Images by Debbie Johansson

I’ll be taking another break from blogging and will return on 29 April. Happy Easter everyone and I hope the Easter bunny is good to you all! 🙂

This Writer's Life, University, Writing

How Writing Bios Can Help Build Your Platform.

During my studies last trimester I undertook my final writing subject.  My first assignment was to write a non-fiction book proposal.

It didn’t take me long to type up the idea for my book, but what was stopping me in my tracks was writing up the biographical details.  I had to meet certain word limits for my overall assignment, so I had to make sure what I wrote in my bio was not only tight but relevant to my proposal.  What really stumped me was what I had to write within the first paragraph – show why I was well equipped to write this particular book.  Trouble was, I had the knowledge, but I didn’t have the experience to help back it up.

I was stunned by my inexperience and felt like a complete amateur.  Writing my bio helped me assess where I was currently with my writing platform and what needed to be done to make it better.  I had to lift my game, not only within my topic but my writing credits as well.  Writing the bio helped me dig a little deeper within my chosen genres, discovering my angle and therefore my ‘brand’.

By making my bio tighter I managed to discover more about myself, as well as my current strengths and weaknesses within my platform.  There’s plenty of work still to be done!

Have you written a short bio?  Has writing a bio helped you discover your strengths and weaknesses within your platform?  What have you done to help make your platform and bio better?

Free image by Simon Howden courtesy of

Blogging, University

Blogging Basics.

During this past week, I’ve been tearing my hair out.  Doing an assignment on a blog proposal may sound like fun, yet there were times when I felt like I was going around in circles.  If nothing else, it has certainly helped me to look at my own blog all over again.

As well as the Three Golden Rules of Blogging, here are some of the basics you need to consider (or indeed, remember) when writing a blog:-

  • Do you have a catchy title?  Does it reveal to the reader what your blog’s content will be about?
  • What are your objectives for writing your blog?  Is it to provide information, persuade action or promote discussion?
  • What is your chosen angle, brand or voice?  How will your blog be distinguished from others within a similar genre?  Will your tone be formal or informal?
  • Why is it needed?  Why would your blog be of interest?
  • How will your blog be structured?  This will include interactive elements, images, etc., as well as your written content.  Remember to use tags, which are very important if you want people to find you on the internet.
  • How much research will you need to help support your written content, such as links, etc.?

It’s so easy to start a blog and it can be difficult not to just jump in with both feet.  With the vast amount of blogs out there, you want yours to stand out.  This can take a great deal of time, thought and planning.

Are you using your blog to its full potential? Do you now look at other blogs and wish yours were as good?

Free image by Stuart Miles courtesy of

University, Writing

Beginner Writers: Step out of Your Comfort Zone.

A couple of years ago, I wrote about Writing with Passion.  In order to be successful as a writer, one needs to write what they are passionate about.  Anything else and you’re not being authentic and true to yourself.

A few weeks back after reading a post from Christy Farmer, I began to question my own niche as a writer.  With the combination of these two posts, I have since discovered that some things have changed, but others have remained the same.  I’m still passionate about my favourite genres and particular topics.  I remember one of my lecturers telling us that she found the best essays were written on topics that students felt passionate about.  I believe in what she says and the same rule applies with anything we write.

In recent years, due to my University studies, there has been a shift in the different styles of writing that I do now.  I’ve always enjoyed writing and for me it has mainly been works of fiction.  Since I began my studies, I have been required to write personal essays, travel writing, as well as writing many other essays on various subjects.  Slowly, but surely I have become accustomed to writing works of non-fiction; something I was always afraid of and therefore, made sure to steer away from.

To be a successful writer, one needs to be flexible; especially nowadays with the future of publication.  As technology changes, so must we.  To show that we are willing to try different writing styles and use different ways of publishing, can only improve ourselves as writers.  What we write and how we write it can improve our portfolios, making us look appealing to publishers.

When it comes to writing, don’t be afraid to experiment.  Artists and musicians do it all the time; by doing so they have learnt to evolve and expand not only their talents, but also their audiences.

How has your writing evolved over the years?  Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone?

Image by Debbie Johansson.


My University Challenge.

Earlier this year, I did something with my studies I had never done before.  I had undertaken full time studies during the first semester and found it quite a challenge.  Undertaking three subjects with a household and children to look after, I never really got the time to do any writing and very little in the way of reading for pleasure.  So, here I am again, putting myself down for the same challenge for the beginning of 2012.  Why?  Quite simply, I only have seven more subjects to do and then I’ve finished study altogether.  The sooner I finish, the better it will be; I will have a life again and have more time to write.  For me, these are the reasons why I continue to study:-

  • To prove to myself (as well as others) that I can do it.
  • To assist with organisational skills and meeting important deadlines.
  • To improve my writing skills.
  • To learn.
  • I’m almost done!

Another interesting challenge is that my University has now changed to trimesters.  I have chosen to do one subject during trimester three, which is during October to the end of January 2013.  Yep, you guessed it – right in the middle of the Christmas school holidays (oh well, at least it’s only one subject)!

Due to financial insecurity within my household, even this close to earning my degree, I did think of chucking it all in.  My husband, on the other hand, refused to hear of it.  If he had to wear one of those outfits and look like a complete idiot for his graduation, then it’s only natural that I should do the same – even if he has to drive me all the way.  Now there’s dedication for you! 🙂

I trust you will understand that my posts earlier next year may become a bit erratic, however, I still intend to post on a weekly basis.  I guess from now on, instead of working smarter, I shall just have to work harder.

Image of University New England by Debbie Johansson.


Writing: Take Time Out for Inspiration.

Since I commenced study back in February, I have found myself snowed under with the workload (hence the slackness with my blog).  As I have never studied three subjects a semester before, I am finding it quite difficult to cope with.   It has got to the stage where I am now studying practically seven days a week, day and night.  Why so much?  I’m afraid I feel that in order to get good marks, I have a tendency to put in more than is required of me.  This workload has got to me at times that I have considered giving up, but I know that what all I really need is a break.

During these school holidays and in the midst of writing up an essay, I have managed to take some ‘time out’.  This has given me time to reflect in order to persevere until the end of May when my studies will be over for this year (and it’s not that far away now).

I’ve managed to find some inspiration from some of these quotes.  I hope you do too!


University, Writing

Defining Your Goals: Learning to Say ‘No’.

I’m afraid I’m one of those people who say yes to a lot of things and more often then not, later wonder why I said that in the first place.  I’m a ‘people pleaser’, and unfortunately, people have tried to take advantage of that, only for me to eventually put my foot down.

So when I was asked to do some more paid work, I was seriously considering the matter.  Then my husband told me specifically not to.  The reason being, quite simply, that my University studies begin again in a matter of days.  This semester I will be doing three subjects; a task I have never done before.  It practically equates to full time work, and I will also be trying to get some writing done at the same time.  It seems I will have my work cut out for me already without having to add anything else to it.

Recently I have been reading The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen.  In it, she states that in order for us to say ‘no’, we must first know what we want to say ‘yes’ to.  I’m beginning to clearly define my goals; going back to working in an office is not one of them.

What have you said no to this year?

University, Writing

Writing: Finding the Time.

Last year I made the fatal mistake of not getting any writing done because of my University studies.  This year, now that my studies are underway, I’m finding it difficult to get back into my own writing.  By not writing for so long, I am finding it difficult to get back my ‘mojo’.

The problem is twofold – that of switching from academic writing to imaginative writing, and managing the time.  Forcing the imaginative side of my brain doesn’t work, and I’ve found that only through relaxation and exercise does that side finally kick in.  Because my university studies require an awful lot of reading (for one subject alone this semester I am required to read seven novels), I tend to continue working late at night.  I find myself putting so much energy into my studies (even though I’m supposed to study part-time), simply because I want to get good marks.  I don’t want to be seen as a failure.  Unfortunately, this allows me to let myself down as a writer.  I’ve been finding it difficult to balance the two.

The old writing advice of ‘write 10-15 minutes every day’ is the only way around it.  It may not sound like much (and more would be an added bonus), yet it forces me to get into the habit of writing every day.  Breaking the writing down into smaller chunks of time, together with smaller writing projects would allow me to get back on track.

Next year I aim to take a year off studies to concentrate on writing.  Unfortunately, this may give me too much time to write, which could easily be squandered!  (Uh oh, looks like it’s either one or the other…).

University, Writing

New to Writing? Start Small.

I  was never big on new years’ resolutions.  Whenever I made one, they usually never lasted longer than a couple of months, so why should 2010 be any different?

Looking over my accomplishments during 2009, although a busy year, it came as quite a shock to realise I had not written anything other than essays for my study.  I feel like a fraud in calling myself a writer.  My studies somehow managed to overtake my life during 2009.  The trouble was (as is always the case for me) the issue of time management.  Surely, I could have managed to squeeze some of my own writing in somehow?  It’s a question of priorities, and seeing in the New Year will also see in some changes.

Sometimes I rush right into things without considering the consequences.  Other times I take too long to come to any decision, and the opportunity is wasted.  This is my second attempt at University studies and I intend to make it to the end this time around.  At the same time, I have every intention of making it as a writer.

I know now that in order to see the big picture, I have to start small.  Things like writing poetry and short stories, editing and re-writing novel drafts, researching, and writing plot outlines are all small steps in the road to publication.  I have been published in smaller publications before.  It gives me hope and the will to keep going forward, one small step at a time.