Saturday, August 2, 2014

Writer's Doubt: How NOT to Enter a Writing Contest

(This is an entry for the "Overcoming Writer's Doubt" contest held by Positive Writer.)

Head over to the writing blog you recently discovered, and spot an “Enter! Writing Contest!” link. Feel hopeless and excited. Hopeless because you don’t stand a chance. Excited because, well, maybe you’re wrong.

Mentally add “award-winning writer” to your bio and envision a rash of new, engaged readers on your blog. Click the contest link.  

Scan the page and find out that you’ll have to write about, of all things, overcoming writer’s doubt. Wonder how in the world you can write an inspiring “I did it and so can you” essay when you have no major writing accomplishments:  no books, no glossy clips, no awards.

Decide you’ll wait until next year’s contests, after all. By then you’ll have success stories to share.

Expect relief, but instead feel let down. Channel the less than desirable voice of your four-year-old:  I don’t wanna wait another year.

Admire the writers who had the courage to enter despite their own insecurities. Make use of your amazing writer’s procrastination skills by spending the next hour reading through their essays about doubt, courage and success.  Feel instant compassion and affection, as if you’re all in this together.

Desire to be one of them.

How to Enter a Writer’s Contest

Remember what Julia Cameron wrote in The Artist’s Way:  in order to be good, you first have to be willing to be bad. 

Think about how awful it was when you moved to Austria and couldn’t speak German. The German students who progressed the quickest were the ones who put themselves out there, and took chances speaking terrible, indecipherable German everyplace they went. Sure, some locals laughed. But in the end, those students were the ones who learned to speak fluently.

Tell yourself that no matter how your essay turns out, you should put it out there. Not to win a contest or for confirmation that you’re a good writer, or even for that sorely needed cash—but to build your skills and get involved. To practice BEING a writer.

Recall the day that you truly became a writer, when you bought the dark poet’s frames at the eye doctors and wore them for everyone to see. Realize that overcoming doubt is like that, too:  you just have to hear the inner voice that says you’re not ready, not knowledgeable enough, not good enough.

And then ignore it.

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