I recently signed up for MatadorU in an attempt to improve my writing and photography skills. For those who don’t know, MatadorU is an educational community that offers online courses in travel writing, photography and videography. They are a part of the Matador Network, the world’s largest independent travel publisher. According to their website and multiple reviews I’ve read, students who have signed up for their courses have taken advantage of their network and have actually gotten paid gigs.
I’m currently signed up for three of the five courses they offer: Fundamentals of Travel Writing, Advanced Travel Writing and Advanced Travel Photography. How it works is you read a chapter and at the end, you have an assignment based on the lessons within the chapter. You work at your own pace and your work isn’t graded, however, it is critiqued. The people critiquing your work are their published editors as well as your peers.
For my first assignment, I had to write a short introductory autobiography. I’ve always felt that I am a talented writer and was feeling confident submitting my first assignment. I was full of excitement when I received an email notifying me that an editor left me feedback just a few hours after submitting my work. I couldn’t wait to see the praise on my first assignment. I logged into my account, and after a couple of clicks, got served a sweet slice of humble pie. Not what I expected. It stung a little bit but the feedback was very constructive and helpful. I did some revisions and resubmitted which was met with more criticism. By now my ego has suffered a crushing blow and I’m already thinking that maybe I’m delusional for thinking of becoming a travel writer.
As a child it’s OK to be bad at things, its part of learning. But as we get older, we’re expected to be good at everything, and all of a sudden, being bad at something is a tough pill to swallow. Especially if you’ve convinced yourself otherwise. Right now, I feel like one of those contestants on American Idol that thinks they can sing, only to get reality checked and humiliated on national TV.
Feedback is a part of growth and the criticism constantly being given to me will only elevate my writing. I am grateful that people are willing to help me on my journey. I just have to keep remembering that. That being said, I’m not ready to quit and I will continue to work on this assignment until I get it right. After that I will move on to the next one, then the one after that, until I get to where I want to be.