Friday, 19 October 2007

Not Winning Things

I've just had a disappointment - I haven't won a competition...again. I write the odd poem. I even joined a writers' group this year. And filled with the confidence that all that mutual admiration gives one, I wrote a poem for a local writing competition. I was pretty pleased with this poem and told myself that even if it got nowhere in the competition (and why should it?) I was glad to have created it.

And now the results are out and I am nowhere. That's okay, just about. But two other members of the group entered the competition and they both did get prizes. So I am feeling pretty gutted. Am I completely crap as a writer? Am I deluding myself? Maybe I should give up any pretensions to writing and grow roses instead.

I have consoled myself with the comments of the recent Man Booker non-prizewinner, Lloyd Jones, who said that he was quite glad not to have won because the prize would have been "a distraction." Nice try, Lloyd!

If that doesn't work, I'll fall back on the old consolation that the best people rarely win the prizes - for example, Gandhi and Irena Sendler never won the Nobel Peace Prize; Al Gore and Yasser Arafat did.


Dorid said...

cheer up... it could have been worse! One of my professors asked me for permission to send in one of my poems to be included in an anual academic poetry publication. I got in as a "best new author"... with a poem I absolutely HATE. THEN asked me permission to do it in readings nationwide. At that point, I just said yes, since it was out anyway :( now there are so many of my poems that I'd RATHER be known for, but THAT one.... ((SHUDDER))

and the only PRIZE I ever won was on, just because I told someone that it wasn't a good place to publish and you could win with anything... it was SAD.

Puddock said...

I don't know whether to sympathise or be envious that at least someone somewhere thought you were good!

I'm consoling myself at the minute by checking out the judges of the competition online and then sneering at them...very sad but it's making me feel a whole lot better!

Greg said...

Puddock, if you want to win contests then the best way to do so is to play the numbers. Professional writers of fiction and poetry get rejection notices like junk mail. It's part of the trade, so don't worry over it.

There are a few more ways to help your odds of publishing or winning something. But it basically comes down to numbers. Skill really is secondary at best.

Puddock said...

Thanks for that Greg - it really cheers me up. I have heard that stickability is more important than pure talent. A few years ago I would have crumpled under the weight of other people's opinions but I am a lot tougher than I used to be. After a good night's sleep I woke up determined to carry on. I know I can do it and that the opinion of judges is just that - an opinion.

I made the mistake of only applying to one competition so I was pretty much hanging around waiting for the result for four months. I am going to give the competitions a rest now but I will work on my novel and I will submit some poems to SEVERAL magazines and hope that the numbers work for me!

Greg said...

It isn't uncommon for writers to accumulate hundreds of rejections letters. I don't want to underplay talent and professionalism because they do count. But if you read a lot, you'll see that quality isn't always a consideration. The more you know about who you are writing for, the more likely you'll get accepted. But a lot is timing. You might submit one month where you and a few others are considered and you just miss it by a hair. Other months you may stand out all by yourself. So you never know.