The writing world is rife with competition – the prizes, the race for an agent, a publisher, the need to push your books into the hands of the readers over all of the others grappling for their attention – there’s no avoiding it. The second you start sending your work out, you’re pitting yourself against all other writing out there, simply by saying it’s worth someone time to read yours and not someone else’s.
That’s a big enough ask, but these days I’m finding myself getting caught up in trying to ‘win’, whether that means placing in a competition or having a story accepted. No big deal, maybe. Isn’t that the whole point? A shiny wee medal of encouragement and a pat on the back, who wouldn’t want that? But the more I find myself thinking about writing as something you can win or lose, the harder I find it to actually concentrate on what I’m writing.
With talk of branding, book as products, authors as equity, it’s easy to start to think about this business as a game, as something you can squeak past the finish line of. We’re in it to win it, but should we be?Competing for reader’s eyes, that’s important to most writers, but equally important should be fulfilling your own desires. If you’re always looking at the podium, imagining yourself there, spraying champagne, when are you going to spend time thinking about what you’re writing? How are you going to forget about everyone else and write something true?
A few recent near misses of one kind of another almost knocked me off course recently, until I remembered that I’m not writing for a gold cup or a badge, I’m doing it because I want to – just for me. And if you take part, it doesn’t really matter whether you win or not, because if someone else reads one of your stories, that’s a pretty awesome prize.