Writing

I Tried, I Failed, I Found Hope

I clicked the Thunderbird icon, hoping for news about the contest I had entered. I knew the results were supposed to be coming at the end of October, so I’d been checking for days. I don’t know what made me check right before bed or why. I wish I hadn’t.

The email was there, waiting to be read. I clicked and my stomach flopped. Please let me at least be an honorable mention, I thought. I scanned the email until I hit the first place winner. Damn, not me. I scrolled through the second and third place winners. Not me either.

My shoulders slumped and my heart felt heavy. I really wanted to place, felt like I needed to place. What I truly wanted was validation. Despite my best efforts, I still hear my grandmother say, “How do you know you’re any good?” I wanted to be able to say, “Here, this, this proves I have merit.”

Okay, I didn’t place, but maybe, just maybe, I was chosen for honorable mention. Twenty-three people were chosen for honorable mention, and do you know that not one of those names was mine? My world fell through a dark hole into an abyss. I didn’t make it.

I scrolled through the rest of the winners, door prizes. There, amongst others whose names had been chosen at random, was mine. As if I couldn’t feel worse, somehow, this door prize felt like the trophy to losers. “Here ya go. Thanks for playing ol’Chap,” as some man in a nice suit claps you on the back.

All the negative thoughts I had about my own writing came tumbling down on me like a window air conditioner shoved out of a second story window. My own mind battered me with insult after insult as I crawled into bed. I laid in bed, willing myself not to cry over the “stupid” contest.

I had one helluva time getting to sleep, staying asleep, and not immediately focusing on the contest every time I woke up. I wasn’t surprised. I just wondered why on Earth I had to check for the results right before bed. (A Homer Simpson “Doh!” sort of moment)

I woke up and immediately dreaded having to tell my children, who had been rooting for me, that their mother had failed. I wanted to be that gracious loser, who smiles and says, “I’ll get ’em next time.” I couldn’t. I’m not proud. I shut the door to my room and went over the results again. I cried like a baby needing a change.

Let me be clear. I know it’s just a contest and it’s only one contest. I know it’s not the end of the world. I know I’ll have other setbacks and letdowns. As I said, I just really wanted the validation. I wanted someone with no stake in it to say, “You’re a good writer.” My family thinks I’m a good writer, but they’re my biggest fans. I’ve had a few people on Twitter tell me I’m a good writer or that I “have a lot of potential.” I always wonder if they’re just saying it so I’ll retweet them, or if they just like me and don’t want to hurt my feelings.

Of course, where did I go when I wanted writer support, which should be a hotline. . . I went to Twitter.

My whining…

After the tweet, I decided to try to brighten some of my friends’ days since mine wasn’t looking too bright. I ran through my “Twitter Friends” list and retweeted and commented to what I could. I found myself happy to find such wonderful stories to share today. My happiness didn’t last long, though. My stupid brain decided to sabotage my happiness with a whole lot of negative thinking.

More of my bellyaching…

Guess what I got in return? The support I needed from writers who understood what I was going through. I cried when the first comments came through. It felt good to be understood in such a complete way. Then suggestions came in to help me out of my dark place. One of my friends gave me a bit of a pep talk, another told me to treat myself to something consoling and then kick my ass and get on with it, another suggested I write ten words for “darkness” without using the word “darkness”.

So I nodded at the wise words of my friends and took their suggestions to heart. I looked through my cupboards and thought what can I make to console and treat myself. Pasta! With garlic bread! I threw together a little pasta and garlic bread, and you know what, I did feel a bit better. It was like a hug from a friend.

Pasta Me-Style (sorry, the garlic bread was shy)

After I ate a healthy helping of pasta, I moved on to my writing assignment, ten words – Darkness without “Darkness”. The assignment helped flush the worst of the negativity from my system. I debated whether to post those ten-word thoughts, but in the end, I wanted others to see them if they were having similar feelings. My words aren’t poetic or special. They are the feelings I had in the moment. Well, at least the ones I could encompass in ten words.

The Yuck of My Brain, Not the Worst and Definitely Not the Best

I feel silly for letting a contest dominate me so thoroughly. I know rejection is part of being a writer, but damn, that doesn’t make it any easier. At least now, I don’t want to throw in the towel. Now, I want to find out how I can make my writing better, and then I want to do what’s necessary to get my words out to the world. You could say, I found hope. I’m hopeful for MY future as a writer and what I’ll be doing to make that happen.

Thanks to Alex Micati for suggesting the song, “That’s Life“. I’m not sure which version he intended, but I liked this one. Also, thanks for all the pep talks and support. You’re a constant support to the writing community. You’re a beautiful unicorn!

Alex Micati’s Twitter

Alex Micati’s Blog

Thanks to Tante Willemijn (aka Linnie) for the words of encouragement and understanding and the wonderful suggestion to treat myself to something consoling. You’re a wonderful, supportive friend! You’re a beautiful unicorn!

Tante Willemijn’s Twitter

Tante Willemijn’s Blog

Thanks to Greg McGraw for the “10 Words for Darkness Without Using Darkness” Challenge and the supportive words of encouragement. You’re a supportive friend. You’re a beautiful unicorn!

Greg McGraw’s Book Page

*Special Note: In my family, we use the term “Beautiful Unicorn” when anyone does anything especially touching, meaningful, and/or caring for us or someone else.

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