I’m a Libran and we prefer things in life to be balanced, particularly our emotions. Guess I shouldn’t have become a writer then huh?
As writers we’re constantly in one of two states of mind; self-doubt interspersed with (if we’re lucky) the occasional rush of self-confidence. If we already beat ourselves up about our abilities, why would we give the same privilege to someone else by entering competitions?
Because if we want to grow and improve as writers, giving our word-babies to others to inspect, to poke and prod and pass comment on, is a necessary evil. Unless you have no interest in becoming published then other people’s opinions (and ultimately an editor’s) are the only gauge we have as to the quality of our work.
Having critique partners is nice and personal. You don’t have to tell anyone what they say about your writing and no-one else needs to know how much work you still have to do. But entering a competition is a huge challenge because you’re forced to burst the ‘just me and my writing’ bubble and face comparison with other writers. Face reality.
I don’t know about you, but when I receive the final ranking sheet I automatically go to the end and work my way up, looking for my title and hoping it’s not too close to the bottom of the page. While it’s not very altruistic, for me there is a sense of relief if I’m not in the last few, that at least I’ve done better than someone.
I’ve been lucky enough to final in the last two competitions I’ve entered, but it was not doing so well in the previous ones that spurred me on to try again to do better. It was probably a few years between my last entries and the latest ones in which time, as you would hope, my writing obviously improved. That didn’t, however, take the terror out of hitting the ‘send’ button or lessen the stomach-clenching anticipation of getting the results. I doubt that ever goes away.
In the interim I also judged some competitions. This gave me a real insight into the other side of things and I’m convinced it helped me inch my way up the rankings list. It really brought home how important it was to make sure I went through the sample score sheets before sending my entries to make sure that my writing fulfilled all the criteria that would be judged.
Competitions are a double edged sword – they’re good for us but the process is stressful and can be painful. However, as an avenue for not only improving our writing but also growing the thick skin which is a necessity for all writers, they’re invaluable.