In mid-April, I entered a writing contest where I needed to gain votes to be in the top 10 to be judged. I submitted my piece right away and I worked and slogged and begged and pleaded and cajoled my way to 67 votes over the course of a month. Up until the last day, I sat in 8th place, only to be bumped down to 12th on the very last day of the contest with brand new pieces immediately getting over 100 votes.
At first, I was SO disappointed – I mean, how do these people get over 100 votes in ONE day? It took me a MONTH to get to 67!
For a while, I overthought it – I looked at my friend’s list on facebook, counted up the numbers between all my social media accounts, and figured if everyone on those accounts had just cast one vote, I’d have won easily!
I also tried to console myself by saying “It just wasn’t meant to be,” and that if it was, I would have gotten the votes I needed and of course, if I had, my submission would have been a shoo-in, right?
Or why had I bothered with a nonfiction piece? If I’d worked a few more days on a fiction piece, I would have come in SECOND! I clearly picked the wrong category.
All these excuses, trying to make myself feel better. And on the day the contest closed, I decided to sit at the kitchen table, drape it with an old shower curtain and work on some backlogged writing while my 4 year old painted. She’d begged all day to paint, from the minute she woke up, she wanted to paint.
So, here we sit: I write while she paints. I’m half-wishing I’d taken my IT husband up on his joking offer to access the list-serv where he works and add in a bunch of votes. I’m kind of wishing I’d acted on the impulse to email everyone I know the link and ask them to vote or direct message them on whatever social media site – you know, spend HOURS trying to get votes. And really, if I’d done that, what other writing would I have had time for? Or reading? Or even just living? All my free time would have been spent copy-pasting messages, trying not to get blocked for spamming everyone on my lists, and so on.
And so I just need to sit with these bad feelings for a bit, wait for the sting of disappointment to pass, and realize that it’s okay. It’s not like I have anything ready for the conference anyway. I don’t have anything worthwhile to pitch – I have a couple ideas that I’m slowly working on, but nothing ready for pitching.
The disappointment is so real, though. This let-down. This wishing I’d worked a little harder or whatever. It feels like rejection, even though it’s not. Entering a contest and not winning.
I thankfully have people in my real life who consistently affirm my talent in writing, and it’s in these moments that I question it. If I was so talented, then why aren’t things working out?
Of course, who says they aren’t working out? I’m pursuing this dream, right? I am published, actually. If you search my name in Amazon, a book comes up. I’m learning and growing as a writer. Connecting with a writing community. Finding my voice. Finding what I’m passionate about writing about. Ditching things that distract me from writing.
So, while it stings right now, I know it’s not forever. This isn’t the end. This has no bearing on my worth as a human or any indication of who I am as a writer. It just means I have a small social network. It means that I have time to work on my current projects instead of trying to cram one project into readiness. It means that this is not yet my time. I need to focus on what’s in front of me, be grateful for what I have going for me, and keep working. Because at the end of the day, I think my worth doesn’t come from being a writer or whether the whole world thinks my writing is amazing.
I am human. Therefore I have worth.
And people hate giving away their email address in order to vote for stuff.
And that’s totally legit, right?
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