I don’t like to enter writing competitions. When I say I don’t like to enter writing competitions, I mean I don’t enter writing competitions. In part, this is because I seem to hear about them shortly before the submissions are due and don’t have time to write something (though in reality I’m a last-minute kinda gal anyway, so that’s just an excuse). I don’t ever really look for writing competitions to enter so when I find them … Well, I like to forget about them. File them away and woops, missed the deadline – maybe next time! The single reason I don’t enter writing competitions can be summed up in one word.
I am terrified that my entry won’t be good enough. I’m worried that the judges will read it and laugh pityingly before discarding my submission to the “WASTE OF TIME” pile. I’m especially concerned that someone will find out I entered a competition and didn’t even get a certificate of participation (and oh, how I collected those little white ribbons on sports carnival days at primary school) because I’m that crap at writing.
And so, confronted with a competition being run by a local writing group here in Singapore, I stared at the blank page and … wrote. And then I edited it the next day. And then I looked at it again a day or two later. And this morning I stared at the black words on the white screen and thought What have I got to lose? Of course, the little voices of self-doubt started listing everything: dignity, respect, what little remains of your self-esteem, invitations to future events because they’ll realise you totally suck.
I cracked open the rum and raisin Tim Tams I bought last night in case of emergency and made a cup of coffee.
I stared at the words on the screen.
Several months ago (in fact, possibly a whole year) my sister entered her first ever photography competition. She didn’t want to, but Mum and I
forced encouraged her and she put together her photos and descriptions and off they went.
She received a voice message saying she had won something in the competition, though we weren’t sure what. We thought this meant a place! A place in the first competition she had ever entered! Wow!
After the initial excitement – and an actual phone call – we discovered she had won something along the lines of an honourable mention (I forget the formal name they gave it).
My sister was devastated. When we tried to console her and remind her that she had at least received something (and not just a little white ribbon) she shrugged it off. “Yeah,” she glowered, “but it wasn’t first. What’s the point if you aren’t good enough?”
Can you tell perfectionism runs in my family?
When the winners were formally announced and we saw the photos that did place in the competition, my sister looked at me incredulously. “They’re really good,” she breathed. “Like, really good. I think I’m happy just to get a mention. I can see why I didn’t come first – they’re so good.”
And I guess that’s the point of sharing this little family moment with you all. You don’t know what standard is being submitted when you enter a competition – you can only hope that, whether you place first or just get a little fuzzy feeling of “I participated”, you learn from the standard that does win.
So I sent my submission to the competition. Not my best work, but then again, nothing I write is ever good enough by my standards.
My writing wish for you this week is for you to enter a competition. It doesn’t matter how big or small it may be. Find a competition that appeals to you, take a breath, and press send. You’re already a winner.