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The Importance of Writing Contests
Why Enter A Writing Contest?
If you are wondering why I am about to tell you about a high school contest I entered and how that is relevant today, well, it was proof that writing was something that I always enjoyed, cared about and spent time on. I was developing my craft, without even knowing it, but not taking it seriously until someone else believed in what I should have believed in. But, hey, I was fourteen years old and what did I know about what I wanted to be "when I grew up."
Today, at 35, I am still pursuing my writing passions aggressively, yet diligently. In retrospect, that first contest mirrored what I was not seeing in myself--until now.
Writing contests test a plethora of writing skills: grammar, spelling, content, structure and much more. Contests guide you in the right direction within an environment dedicated to providing positive and constructive feedback.
Entering a contest gives you confidence, discipline and the know-how to home in on your strengths and weaknesses.
Something I Said?
My First Writing Contest 1989
I can only speak for myself, but I do love to write. I continue to work diligently so that one day I can do it full time (although I write all the time; be it on my phone, journal, or at work) because right now, my time is full!
My high school English teachers believed I had an ability to put words together in a way that would propel me into a writing career, but I shrugged off that notion and just did what I had to do and went on a career path that I was advised would be better for me (what was I thinking!?)
Nevertheless, I always wrote expressively, passionately and descriptively; and today, I am taking that leap with hubpages by my pen side!
Just the other day, as I was digging for my journal, I found the contest program from the ninth grade essay contest that my teacher (thank you for believing in me) so persistently entered for me. Honestly, I do not even remember writing it! I was fourteen years old and knew I had to come up with a 300 to 500 word essay; therefore, in my mind, it was just another assignment for school. But, today, I see that it was my first real writing contest!
I never realized how much effort, time and creativity it took for me to put that one silly story together, but I did and I crafted it. My teacher entered it for me and later told me that out of eight or so ninth grade classes my entry was in the running.
"And the Winner is..."
Me! Wow, yes, I really won. And the program read as follows:
"It is with great pride that the members of the Department of English acknowledge the achievement of the following students, each of whom has composed a superior piece of original writing. We hope that the recognition that they have earned via this competition will serve as a catalyst to continuing 'literary' successes."
Funny, I never really read that until recently and it is all coming full circle on what my true passion and career path should be.
Writing is Winning
Second Place--not too shabby!
I ranked second in my ninth grade class out of about a few hundred students. Second place is not that bad when you are right up there with the top writers of your class being honored for your original work. The fact that I even placed and was published in my school's paper was good enough for me. I was happy, but it only hit home more than ten years later that I was being recognized for my writing abilities.
My Second Writing Contest 2010
I decided to take the leap, once again, in 2010, and get my work out there. I wrote a story back in 1998 and received positive initial feedback from a close friend who was objective and full of suggestions and offered constructive criticism.
A month ago, I received my first notice that I made it through the first round of judging by a literary agent and that out of 300 submissions I was in the top 100. From that point on, I had won again in my eyes. I felt that my diligence and focus was being appreciated. Although I did not "win," per se, I had found the courage to put myself out there again.
After the first round of judging I received notice that I did not win the contest, but that I ranked in the top 100. Not bad, eh?
The lesson learned, this go around, was patience. I learned to patiently wait for the results, but in the mean time I felt accomplished and on track to produce more potential entries. I became more engaged in creating pieces that led to more creative ideas and further research topics and story lines that I could develop short and long-term. It was my own win-win situation.
Discipline. The act, practice or activity that is all about mental and physical preparation. This is what a contest allows you to perfect. Discipline is essential. Having and making the time to draft takes discipline. Researching, proof-reading and following technical rules increases your ability to discipline yourself. Therefore, giving you all you need to keep on moving forward.
Although most of us fear rejection, in a weird way, I embraced it. I wanted to know the good, the bad and the ugly of my work. Why? Because that is how my writing will grow and how I will learn to develop that thick skin you need when submitting queries.
A third party pair of eyes with an impartial, unprejudiced and expert critique is exactly what the writing doctor ordered. To my surprise, out of the three categories: Subject, Content and Technical, from a score of 1-5, I scored 5, 5 and 3. Not too bad, huh? Now, I know that I need to work a little harder on my technical and that for me is a great start to perfecting my craft.
It can not be all work and no play, right? Writing is fun! Writing to enter a contest gets the competitive writing juices going. It gets you going, thinking and putting it down to get it out there. The fact that you have made this commitment to yourself and to your writing is like honoring your work in a fun, exciting and challenging way.
Writing is about creativity, imagery and having a voice. Expressing yourself in this way allows you to work and have fun all at the same time.
My Favorite Contest Sites
- WOW! Women On Writing Issue 43: Physical Fitness for Writers
If you're anything like me, there are two resolutions I make every year: to get in great shape through diet and exercise and to be a more productive writer. This issue, we take those resolutions, combine them, and explore the theme, "Physical Fitness
Places for Writers to enter their work, writing resources and other great writing products and contests!
Believe in Yourself
The great F. Scott Fitzgerald said,
"You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say."
Good luck, and remember, you already won by just putting yourself out there.
Dust off those stories and memoirs and enter today!
Believe in YOU and the rest will follow!