Other titles for this blogpost (a special segment that I just came up with): Taking Questionable Risks; From Fruit to Spaceships In One Literary Bound; One Step For A Novelist, One Giant Leap For A Writer; Parameters? I Hardly Wrote Her!
Have I mentioned that I am a budding writer? I’m currently working on a few projects including two novels and a short story. It’s slow going right now, but I hope to be more organized in the coming months. A Facebook ad recently brought my attention to a Flash Fiction contest. It’s done entirely online, and you are given parameters to meet: a max of 1,000 words, a 2-day deadline, and 4 rounds. It sounds stressful, but intriguing. As someone who is overcoming insecurities, entering a writing contest is a big deal.
I have yet to pay the entry fee. The first challenge doesn’t start until July, and the last challenge, if I happen to make it through all of the prior rounds, isn’t until December. The first challenge is a non-elimination round where you earn points for which rank you get. You may be eliminated after the second challenge as a result of the points you accrue from both.
After each challenge, your piece is evaluated and critiqued. I’ve never had my fiction writing critiqued. I’ve never submitted my writing for a contest (excluding three years of handwriting contests). If I can write a short story in less than 1,000 words that does well in a contest, it will certainly give me hope that my 27,000+ word novel is any good. However, if I don’t do well, it doesn’t mean that my novel isn’t any good, nor that I’m no good at writing. It’s a different scenario with different parameters. Apples to starfruit (note the lack of oranges). Both fruit, but one I love and one I have yet to try.
As a perfectionist, two days between the reception of the prompt and the submission deadline will either force greatness or cause me not to submit anything at all. You can guarantee that I would do my best to submit something, since I would be paying to enter. I’m never satisfied with my writing. It can always be clearer, more concise, smoother. Even now, I’ve edited this piece several times in efforts to make it perfect. It’s what makes this blog such a challenge for me. This blog is helping me grow, but I’m not sure I am ready for more.
I’m not sure I’m ready to put my creativity out there. My life inside the space ship is pretty grand. I can entertain the ideas that my writing is great, and that it is worth the time I spend. Is it ready to be tested? Is it ready to venture out into the vacuum of the external world, evaluated, critiqued, sent back to me battered and bruised. Judged. In the spaceship, I can see it as perfect, or at least, I can pretend it is. That image is what allows me to write at all. Do I want that image to be tested?
If you read the winning stories from the website, they are wonderfully written (one of my favorites is the winning story from last year). I can only hope to do as well one day. They are written by people with experience. People who are published in some way, or have been writing for many years. I’m not trying to downplay my experience, but can I really expect to win? Should I entertain that hope?
If I told my therapist about this endeavor, she would probably tell me to make a Pros-and-Cons chart. So here it is:
Pros: My writing will be tested.
Cons: My writing will be tested.
Okay, maybe I need to be a bit more serious.
Pros: I will find out if I’m good at writing within those parameters. There will be an opportunity to use skills (this is what my therapist always likes to point out to me). It will be a good exercise for my creativity muscle. I might have some huge validation in my current writing endeavors. The critique will help me improve and grow in my ability.
Cons: I might find out that others are considered better at writing within those parameters (look at me being all factual and not at all opinionated). I will be vulnerable. It will be challenging to take critique well. I might take losing poorly.
So, should I do it? Should I enter a writing contest? Where if I win, it will be a cause for much validation and encouragement in my novel-writing endeavors. If I lose, it has the potential to hurt me deeply, and cause me to lose interest in it altogether. Or, it could fuel me to get better. But maybe it isn’t an “or”. Maybe it’s an “and”. A dialectic. One that hurts, but fuels, motivates, drives. I’ve been knocked down before. So many times that I’ve grown acquainted with the floor, with rock bottom. Each time, it gets a little easier. Each time I’m down there, I survive.
And this time, I will have tools, skills, to bring with me. A support system. I know that, and even knowing that still makes this scary. But, perhaps it is a good scary. Only time will tell.
Any encouragement, validation, or advice will be much appreciated. As always, thank you for reading.