Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Time to Win...A Time to be Humbled

Let's face it: when we enter a contest, we're in it to win. And when we final, or actually win, we can't wait to tell the world how God has once again confirmed our calling in life. Because...hello... winning a writing contest is definitely confirmation that God wants us to write.

But wait a minute.

What about those who don't win? Or don't final? Are they receiving confirmation too? Confirmation from God that they should throw in the towel, send their WIP's to the recycle bin and sell their ninety-four writing reference books on eBay?

I don't think so.

And I'm not just saying that because I just found out I placed fourth out of four finalists in a recent chick lit contest. Trust me - for about an hour after I got the news, I seriously considered the aforementioned options. I honestly thought I had a chance at taking first place. And when I learned I didn't, I was devastated.

But, as a few beloved friends reminded me, contests are subjective. And judges are human too (which I was really relieved to hear because if a four-legged animal scored my entry dead last, it may just have pushed me over the edge).

After entertaining thoughts of quitting for good, I have decided to keep plugging away at my manuscript. For two reasons.

One: I like the story. Yes, it needs work. It needs revision. But I like my style and my voice. I really think it has a place...somewhere...in Christian publishing. In fact, the judging agent requested the full manuscript (which brings me to a whole other topic of WAY differing opinions from two judges reading the same manuscript. That's for another day). But I am trying to keep reminding myself that there are other people besides my mom and me who really do like my story.

Two: God wants me to. And I don't say that glibly. I truly believe writing is one of my callings in life and I am determined to follow it. Regardless of how my manuscript placed in this contest. (And in case you're wondering, yes, I really am thankful I finalled at all, even though it doesn't seem like it at the moment).

The thing I'm taking away from this experience is not only a tougher skin - which is mandatory in this business. I'm also developing a more tender heart. Tender to what God is trying to teach me. Maybe it's something technical about my writing itself. Maybe it's just to simply trust that He knows what's best for me. And winning wouldn't be it this time.

There is a time to win and a time to be humbled. And neither affects our God-given purpose.

Yes, winning would have been nice. But God has a purpose for my writing, regardless. And my heart confirms it.

So what about you? Has winning (or not winning) a contest changed your perspective? If you came in dead last, would you still believe God has a purpose for your writing or would you be tempted to give up on your dream?


Leigh said...

Thanks for being so honest with us, Lynda. It takes a lot to come to that place with yourself, let alone share it with others.

Personally, I love the chapters you've subbed to our group. You have me laughing every time so maybe that counts for something. :-)

For myself, the thing that kept me going was one of the judge's encouraging comments and the fact that some of their comments didn't surprise me. I know some things need changing because I've learned and have grown since entering the contest months ago.

In my heart, I believe God has called me to write, speak and teach for Him. He let me pout for a while but then called me back to the job at hand and reminded me that it's all for Him, not for me. When my attitude is in the right place He can do a lot more with me.

Cathy West said...

As I wrote on your blog, I'll reiterate. I'm not a contest person. I tried it, and honestly, it's just not worth it for me. Despite the many arguments as to why I should enter a contest, my gut feeling tells me not to go through it again. Not because I did badly or well, in fact I got high scores and mediocre scores - there you have the subjectivity issue again. No, for me, it's a matter of being judged. I'm only going to be judged by the One who has given me this gift in the first place. I write for God. Whether I final win or place last in a contest really doesn't matter to me.
There are many writers who enter dozens each year.That's their choice, their money. I guess I've just never been competitive. I'm happier to hide in my cave and write, submit and wait and see...it's all in God's hands. Personally, I find contests far to stressful. I have more than enough stress without adding to it! Just my ten cents!

jenness said...

Keep your chin up, girl. And keep writing! :-)

Kaye Dacus said...

For me, the doubts came with receiving my first professional rejections--one from an agent which wasn't a very nice rejection, and then after I signed with a different agent, when the rejections started rolling in from all of the publishing houses. And I do mean ALL of the publishing houses. The worst thing was that I was working on the follow-up book to the one that was being rejected left and right. Talk about writer's block!

But then I stepped back and I remembered all of the stories I've written in my life, all of the manuscripts I completed before the one that was getting rejected. I didn't write the for publication. I wrote them because I loved the story. I had to remind myself that my whole purpose for writing isn't to win contests or even to get published--I write because I love to. Winning or getting published would just be icing on the cake!

Betsy Ann said...

Thanks for sharing, Lynda. Great thoughts! Very inspiring. =)

Cathy West said...

And if you want a real lesson in humility, check out my blog to see what happened to me today! UGH.
I'm still trying to get over it. Bad me, bad me, bad me...