Once upon another failure


I need to take a moment here to be incredibly whiney and self-absorbed, to the incredulity of many, I’m sure. For those silver-lining/look-at-the-bright-side folks, let me save you the trouble of response. I’ll do it for you:

“You did so well just to get acknowledged.”

“Think of all the entries you had to beat, just to be a finalist.”

“It doesn’t depreciate your skill.”

“You haven’t lost anything. / You’re no worse off than you were before.”

“It’ll happen for you one day.”

Thank you for your sentiments. I appreciate you trying to cheer me up (or if you’re chastising me for having a negative attitude, I thank you for the good intent that must be in there somewhere), but that doesn’t actually change anything — not the situation, nor the disappointment.

Those of you who know I entered a writing competition a few weeks ago will have figured out what I’m talking about.

I was excited to have made the list of finalists for the competition run by the NZ Writers’ College. Being a finalist only gave me a 1/25 chance of winning free entry into one of their online courses, but 1/25 is a lot better than 1/27,025,800. (Granted, that figure assumes every soul in NZ and Australia had entered, but my creative licence reserves me the right to hyperbole.)

I wanted to win the competition because I’d expect, in working with one of their tutors, to learn the secret knock on the door to NZ’s publishing industry; how to get my writing from my living room computer to a library bookshelf.  (An audacious goal for someone who could count her blog subscribers on her feet and still have toes to spare, isn’t it?) There are plenty of ‘How to find an agent / get published’ books at the library, but they’re all for international markets — USA and UK, mostly — which isn’t useful for learning New Zealand’s own industry standards and methods.

The winner is officially announced tomorrow. But I’m making the [calculated] assumption that it’s not me, because I received a message from the NZ Writers’ College today, saying:

“Just a quick reminder to visit our results page tomorrow. Your story receives a mention, so well done for that. We were very impressed with the standard of your writing.
You can also vote for your favourite story out of the five winning stories, for the People’s Choice Award.
Well done again, and we look forward to hearing from you in our competition next year.”

To my eye that’s delicate-speak for ‘You didn’t win anything. But here’s a platitude pat for your efforts.’

I can’t decide whether knowing early is mercy or mean. On the one hand, they’ve mercifully cut short the suspense and impatient anxiety. On the other, I wasn’t prepared for the disappointment to prematurely smack me on the face from my own inbox. If I was going to their results page on announcement day, I at least would have been braced for the possibility of not winning. The email didn’t give me time to arm myself with coffee and peanut slabs.

In my defence, before anyone jumps on my ingratitude, I do acknowledge that things could be worse. I could have missed out on a mention entirely. I could have received a ‘Please consider another pastime’ feedback message. I could have lost both my hands falling down some stairs, and never been able to write again.

But I also think it’s okay for me to be upset. You run a race (or enter a writing competition) with an objective: to win. And at the end, you win or you don’t win. Being commended doesn’t mean anything.

At the end of it all, I still don’t know how to get my writing from my living room computer onto a library shelf. And that’s my disappointment.


1 Comment

  • Tim Newcombe on Facebook
    31 Oct 2012

    I have no words of insight to offer on your (very eloquently written) blog post, save this: I suspect one trait published authors share is having all had their work rejected, probably a lot, and simply persisting until they finally learn the secret knock.

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