Musing on a Masters


{tulips from Duckfish}

Last night I handed in my last two assignments and completed my Masters degree in Non-Fiction Writing. These last eighteen months have flown by.

Here is a story about going back to school I share in The Love Matrix book.


When I returned to University after being away from formal education for twenty years I knew I could handle it. I am intelligent and pick things up quickly so learning is not difficult. What I had to adjust to was the high expectations I had on myself in an environment where I wanted to be the top of the class (so that people would admire me I suppose). Instead of repeating my first University experience where I worked my arse off and never had any fun, I decided this time to enjoy every moment of the journey.

The first time I had to submit a piece of writing for the class to critique and give feedback on, I was nauseous with fear. What if I couldn’t write at all? What if everyone thought my work was shit? I’d spent a lot of time on the piece, ignoring my own advice to give up my need for it to be perfect; so I took almost every word I’d written in my first draft and changed it for a better one.

The feedback was lukewarm. There was nothing wrong with my writing. It was fine. At the end of the workshop, I didn’t know how to make it better or if I was doomed to be a crap writer.

The second time I submitted work for feedback, I did things differently. I wrote exactly what came out of my head and didn’t touch a word. It was raw, unpolished and rough.

This time the feedback was amazing. There were bits that needed fixing but they were the same bits I knew needed work. Knowing I could see the areas that needed improvement confirmed I was on the right track. The class came up with wonderful ideas about themes that were emerging I hadn’t even seen. Their comments sparked a rush of ideas I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. There was collaboration and encouragement completely different from my first workshop experience.

But the story doesn’t end there. When I re-wrote the piece and submitted it for assessment, I still didn’t do a perfect job. I ran out of time, I got bored with the subject matter and a shiny thing distracted me. I probably put in an 80% effort.

But here’s the thing. When it was marked I got a Distinction for it and it was the best mark I ever got. If I had given 100% to the project and received a Distinction which might have happened because writing assessment is inherently subjective, I would’ve felt disappointed and doubted my talent. But getting a Distinction for a less than perfect attempt meant that I still had the potential to do better. More effort, more time, more focus (all within my capability) and my work could be even more brilliant.

The lesson is about perception. The same mark can mean two different things depending on the standards you apply. Not shooting for the very best and still doing a good job left me confident I could improve. Working my butt off and doing a good job (but not judged a brilliant job by one person) would have left me thinking I was shit and I’d have given up or seethed with resentment.

The end result is growth vs quitting. And that is the insidiousness of perfectionism and the lesson we teach our kids every time we tell them off for not doing something perfectly. It is why we feel so bad about ourselves when our hard work isn’t recognised the way we think it should be. Next time you decide to cook the perfect meal or spend hours on that project until it’s exactly right ask yourself ‘is all this effort leaving me room for growth or setting me up for disappointment?’

80% effort will transform your world.

→ Want more? Get the The Love Matrix Kindle Book here or the free The Love Matrix PDF here.

I’ve just finished your ebook The Love Matrix, and wanted to let you know how fantastic I thought it was!! I am SO glad that you 1) have such a gift and 2) that you chose to share it!! There was so much in there that I related to and found myself nodding most of the way through it!! What an amazing woman you are, and I’m so glad I found your blog when I did!

About KatieP

Embracing my midlife sexy while exploring modern love & relationships • Devoted to all things beautiful • Master of Arts in creative writing & non-fiction writing • Join the hottest group on FB → Sassy Ageless Women

6 thoughts on “Musing on a Masters

  1. Katie, I love your comment ‘the same mark can mean different things ….’ When I finished my accounting module I was stoked with my credit grade and felt it was fitting for the effort I’d put in plus I just wasnt prepared to totally sacrifice health, family and sanity for a possible distinction, yet some of my uni colleagues from last year (who incidenatlly didnt go on to further study) commented with sad, disappointed faces that they had expected me to do better. I was gobsmacked. Am I just not self confident enough to aim that high whilst others clearly think I’m capable??? Interesting concept.


    1. I think the key to your comment is that you felt your grade fitted the effort you put in. It doesn’t matter what other people think. It’s all about ROI (return on investment) – is sacrificing your health, family and sanity worth the a higher result/grade? I wouldn’t think so. I don’t think aiming high is always better or even sensible if it costs too much along the way!
      PS Congratulations on your own studying achievements. How anyone can study with a family and job is beyond me so bravo you!

  2. Congratulations! if only my genuine happiness for you wasn’t tinged with envy (lol, I’m not done til next week).

    Seriously though, such a great accomplishment – well done. In addition to all the writing you do here online. You totally deserve to get a big fat book deal Katie P!

  3. Congratulations Katie! When I handed in the last assignments of my degree nobody said anything! They saved all their raving for the whiz-bang graduation ceremony. But, for me, the thrill was sitting those final exams and knowing that was IT.

    Well done, you! It’s a real accomplishment. You deserve a really BIG glass of really EXPENSIVE vino.

    1. Thanks Sara — I haven’t even thought about the graduation ceremony. As all my friends and family live miles away, it will just be me an Duckfish — and that’s only if he’s not working out of town that week! So Thursday did give me the thrill of knowing it was DONE. Now to decide what comes next …?

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