Should I Play or Should I Go

It’s April. After dreading it from the moment I wrote it down on my writing calendar year, it has arrived! The month of contests.

One of my goals this year was to participate in as many of the contests as I could this year with as many different WIP as possible. While I won’t have new drafts ready in time (and these contests are rarely for first drafts anyway!) I do have a number of things ready to go this month.

Cue the overwhelm.

There is a lot involved in getting ready for contests. Not only that, April tends to be a busy month in terms of drafting. It’s Camp NaNoWriMo, in which I’ve participated for almost four years now? Yeah, I think it’s four years. I can’t miss that! There’s a new pitch contest this month, too, one I’m particularly interested in supporting and participating. Put three contests on top of that and I think I can be excused for being a little terrified of missing a deadline, forgetting a date, or simply deciding not to play because there’s just too much fear/angst/pressure attached to it.

What’s hard for me to remember sometimes is that contests are meant to be fun. It’s hard to think about that when contestants are frantically revising pages and queries in anticipation. It’s hard when previous contestants are coming onto the Twitter feed to give tips for preparation and talking about how it won them their agent because they were able to win a spot in the contest. It’s hard when mentors and editors remind everyone that their manuscript needs to be almost perfect to enter, and then proceed to remind contestants that their work will likely be pulled apart and dissected in preparation for a total rewrite. (By the way, that’s not anywhere nearly as terrifying as it sounds, and rewrites and redrafts are completely enjoyable things and NOT about opening a cadaver and tearing it up. It’s a lot more like open-heart surgery and breathing new life into a work that has been overworked from critique and trying too hard.) But all the same, it’s frightening to feel that these contests are the end-all to whether your story gets out in the world or is condemned to the shelf. It’s also disheartening to wonder, once again, if you are simply not the kind of writer that a mentor or editor believes should “make it”.

But, in order to have fun, which is again the point of writing contests, it’s necessary to put aside the feelings of fear and pressure, and just play the game. What’s the worst that could happen? I lose, right? And if there was never any pressure to win or lose, if it was only for fun, it’s no worse than losing a lottery. The important thing to remember is that my whole future as a writer and the health and wellbeing of my story doesn’t depend on winning a contest, just like I would never put any expectations of my physical health and wellbeing on winning a thousand bucks on a scratch-off. It’s just for fun.

So, I’ll be playing this year. Best of luck for anyone else playing, and remember that the odds are never in your favor. But your future doesn’t depend it.

Million Word Madness:  2,535

Total words for March 55,406

Total for the year so far: 230,195

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