Last week, I entered the first of what I hope will be many writing contests. Well, the first in the last 20 years anyway. While I’m sorry that my essay was rejected, I have to admit that I’m pleasantly surprised by some major realizations from this experience.
- My fear of rejection was much worse than the reality of not winning.
- I actually received a written rejection email. I was thinking I wouldn’t hear anything at all if not chosen as a finalist.
- There weren’t nearly as many entrants as I imagined there would be.
While losing to fewer entrants could sting more than losing to the masses, I’m actually encouraged by the low numbers. I’ve read the finalists and understand why my essay did not win this time. What encourages me is that my imagination conjured up thousands upon thousands of hopeful writers. Knowing that only hundreds entered this contest reminds me that just submitting something in the first place is a step many writers don’t ever take.
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I’ve had dreams of getting published since the 7th grade. But my biggest obstacle has and still remains my own fear of rejection. It’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older, too. I can’t count the number of opportunities I have let slip away because I’ve psyched myself out before I’ve even tried. In my mind the competition is always larger, better, stronger and thicker-skinned than I am.
I was completely STUNNED, therefore, by my reaction when I read the following in my email inbox:
Dear Entrant: The panel of judges chose 18 semi-finalist essays, and unfortunately your essay was not selected.
was not selected. That should have stung. But I shed no tears, I didn’t feel my heart breaking, and I actually smiled. Yes, smiled. My greatest fear in life was just realized and I was happy? Well, yes. The realization that rejection is NOT the end of the world, but merely a stepping stone that will help me learn and grow as a writer hit me like a ton of bricks that magically dissolves into colorful bubbles on impact. I find myself relishing this experience even more. Knowing that I can put myself out there, not be chosen, and still want to write more is the greatest gift this contest gave me.
I used to enter poetry contests all the time in middle school. I wasn’t so afraid then. While I don’t have the egocentric blind cockiness now that I had then driving me to think I’m better than everyone else, I do have some confidence restored. I woke up this morning with a handful of blog post ideas, limber typing fingers, and the motivation to get out of bed while it’s still dark and hit the keyboard.
I have experienced writer’s rejection and lived to write another day.