Friday, July 15, 2005

Sore Losers and Deserving Winners

For about 30 minutes this morning, I seriously doubted my ability to hack it in the world of writing. I'm not talking about writing talent. I'm talking about the second most critical ability a writer must have - Rhino Skin.

I have yet to submit a manuscript and receive the inevitable rejection letter, so I can only imagine what that feels like. And I can only barely imagine how discouraging it must feel to receive the 100th rejection and the 1,000th. Basically, it's gotta suck.

This morning I got a tiny taste of that suckage in the form of the AAR Purple Prose Parody Contest. For fun, I decided to enter. I spent an afternoon writing a fun little parody, another hour or so fine tuning and shaving off words to get it down to the 1,500 word limit. It was a blast to write, and I convinced myself that win or lose, it was something I'd done just for grins and giggles. I have no desire for the prize, so really, a win would just mean a fleeting moment of pride, right?

Well, as would be expected, I did not win. But when I logged on this morning and learned this - and please know that a healthy portion of my brain had expected this outcome - I was surprised by how disappointed I felt. Honestly, I felt really bad.

Isn't that so stupid?

Being the catastrophic (and cynical) thinker that I am, my immediate knee-jerk reaction was that I suck as a writer. That since I didn't even warrant mention as one of those stories that had received a healthy quantity of votes, clearly I cannot even write badly well enough to get noticed. Therefore, I'm silly to be wasting my time and I should just throw in the towel.

The second knee-jerk had me feeling sorry for myself, figuring that I must not have even placed simply because I'm not part of the group of regulars who voted for each other. I hadn't stood a chance even if I'd written the best story ever. Yeah, that was my inner six year old coming out. Thankfully, she stays in her cage most of the time, playing with the inner four year old who pouts whenever she doesn't get to watch the TV show she wants because the hubby already has the remote control.

So, feeling bruised and deciding that there is no way in hell I can handle real live rejection letters if I let something as silly as losing a web contest bug me so much, I left the house and got myself a big cup of English Toffee cappuccino as a consolation prize. Maximum fat, maximum sugar.

And when I sat back down at my laptop, I felt much better. Because I kind of got a grip. Really, my reaction was so ridiculous. Who cares if I didn't win a silly web contest? It was fun to write the story, and it was the first time I'd ever written something like that.

Also, I actually read the winning entry. I hadn't done that yet - I hadn't read any other entries because I didn't want to suffer weeks of beating myself up over how much better they were than my own. I also didn't vote in the contest. Kind of just submitted my story and ran.

Anyway, I read the winning entry, and it's hilarious. It deserved to win. If I would have voted, it's the story I would have voted for. Laugh out loud funny, very clever, really really cute.

And reading that entry pushed any bad feelings I had completely away. I gave it a shot and my shot wasn't the best. The world is still a fair place. This has nothing to do with *me* personally and everything to do with the story. Now I know what it takes to win, what I would have to do differently. I have a bar with which to measure myself.

Perhaps that's the key to accepting rejection. Perhaps when you enter a contest and receive less than pleasant results, getting a chance to read the winning entry might be a balm for the emotional wounds. If you can agree that what won is worthy of the honor, it's a lot easier to accept your own loss.

So, congratulations to Amy Edwards and Kate Johnson! What a great story. Thanks for putting a big grin on my face.

On a non-related topic but one that is near and dear to me, tonight is the big night. To all of my fellow Harry Potter Fans, I hope you have a lot of fun in whatever way you've decided to acquire The Half-Blood Prince. My daughter and I will be hanging out at Barnes and Noble, and I'll be praying for enough stamina to read at least a few chapters once I get home.

If you don't hear from me until Monday, you can picture me curled up with my copy, a big happy smile on my face.


MaryF said...

Lynn, yours was the shoes one? That was the first one I read - I thought it was a hoot! And I sure know the disappointment. I'd like to say you get used to it, but....I haven't yet.

Lynn M said...

Thanks, Mary!!

Yeah, I was afraid you'd say that about the not getting use to it part. I'm just hoping that it gets to be easier the more you experience, but I'm not holding my breath. :)