Once upon a time, twenty-five years ago, I could not conceive of putting anything I wrote into a contest. My gosh, I’d never survive knowing someone else read it and thought it was horrible stuff! That my “baby” was the ugliest they’d ever seen?
But, as we grow in our writing by learning and applying, by listening to others and reading a lot, we gain a bit of confidence – a little “faith” in ourselves as writers and as evolving human beings.
Back in 1997, I can remember being over the moon when I won (a door prize at a special meeting) a critique by a NY-published author that I knew and respected. This was the significant event in my life that taught me the power of words.
I quit writing for years after I read her notes. She felt that honesty was more important than tact. I still disagree with that theory, today. Thankfully, my own group of critique partners had faith that I’d be a better writer if I carried on. So, after a lot more learning and listening and reading, I went back to it. I gained lifelong friends and mentors like Anne Waldradt, for one – a woman who permanently shaped my writing for the good.
One of the lessons I learned was to never, ever, share my comments or opinions with anyone unless I was sure they’d be helpful and not hurtful. All suggestions can be offered so they don’t crush the life out of someone. My writing partner, DK Ludas, or Daria in our circles, is wired the same way. One year she and I even chaired a large writing contest for pre-published authors. We spent hundreds of hours making sure the comments were constructive and not destructive before they went off to the authors. We wanted to encourage faith – not fear.
In time, contests became an opportunity to learn and grow for me, not something to be feared or dreaded. My “babies” can be unique-looking, but they are nurtured through editing, feedback, and rewriting from trusted partners in the business – and I’ve got faith that I can be proud of the results, even when those babies don’t win or even final. Judging a work, be it words, paint, or some other art form, is a subjective process.
I’ve often written in the newsletter about the value of entering contests. Sure, when you win, you feel GREAT!! And every time you glance over at that sticker, trophy, or award certificate, you feel great, again. Sometimes you can win money or a prestigious review, publishing opportunity, or something else that is important to you. And sometimes, we don’t.
But most importantly, we get to exercise and strengthen that faith muscle. And, the made-that-deadline muscles And muscles that are not exercised, do not get and stay strong.
Daria and I pray over just about everything. And even though sometimes we have to encourage each other to let it go and leave it with our Lord to do with as He sees fit, we know the result will benefit us. With our kids, our husbands, our communities and with our writing.
The results do not define us: our participation does. That’s how to let faith beat out fear, every single day. Go for it – and do it with a smile!