Friday, March 21, 2008

Competition

I entered a small writing contest last month, and didn't win. In a way, I'm glad, because I was able to turn it around into something positive.

When I first got the news, I was really let down. Then, jealous and angry at the people who'd won. Then, angry at myself for being so petty and thin-skinned. As usual, I started questioning my own abilities... am I a good writer? Do I have any talent whatsoever? What the fuck am I doing this for if I can't even win a writing contest?

After a while, I realized that I really hadn't put my best work out there. I had a month, and spent the majority of it dicking around and working on other projects. I wound up typing up the entry over the deadline weekend, with no real time for revision, or to look at it with fresh eyes. Still, in my arrogance, I couldn't see it not winning. Realizing that arrogance touched off another wave of anger and self-doubt.

But then, I remembered reading somewhere that the best thing you can do when you get a rejection letter, or lose a contest, or go through anything that shakes your confidence is to write. Just write. Free write, write a short story, do anything, just write.

So I did. I started with just a stream-of-consciousness freewriting exercise, but quickly moved back to Age of Rust. A really weird thing happened... one that made me realize why writing in times like this is amazing advice. I remembered! I remembered that I could write, and write well. The feeling of "hey, I can do this!" washed over me again and reinvigorated me.

I realize now that writing contests maybe just aren't for me, at least not at this point in my career. I don't need the distractions, and I take it way to hard if things don't go my way. They turn writing into a zero-sum game, and that's not what I am looking to get out of this whole exercise. I'm writing for my own edification, not to be better than anyone else. I get all the competition I need when I look in the mirror.

Would this post be different if I had won? Probably. I'm sure I'd be gushing. But then, I think the realizations that have come out of this are more valuable for me as a person and a writer. As Bug Eyed Earl says, "When life gives you poop, you make poop juice."

Delicious.

2 comments:

Fake Gore Vidal said...

Glad that you were able to get back on the stick. I am eagerly awaiting delivery of your latest.

And don't worry, we've all always known you were a loser, and we love you anyway (ha. kidding. sorry, you set me up for that...)

Sean said...

I was totally devastated when I lost that contest too, and I felt the same anger, then the same shame. I went through exactly all that!

I even vowed not to do any more contests. It made me feel a bit better knowing I'm not the only one to took it hard and then felt awful.

Here's to us losers!