Okay, okay, keep your shirts on. Though it may look like it from the title, this blog post is not about leaving the Winners’ Circle. It’s about learning from missteps, mistakes, and recognizing your shortcomings. That said, you can stop reading because everything else supports this thought process.
Oh, I see that you’ve decided to venture a bit further and I can appreciate that. Thanks for sticking around and daring to delve further into the recesses of my twisted mind. I have a lot to say on the subject.
I just got back news that I will not be claiming the top prize in a rather prestigious literary contest. Oh, boo-effin’-hoo! I actually kind of LIKE the fact that someone else won it and not me.
No, I’m not some sort of closeted masochist, nor am I a glutton for punishment. What I realize is that this gives me a chance to congratulate the winner while rechecking my coordinates. It allows me to go back to the drawing board and come up with a better formula for winning.
I write, therefore I am. I don’t write for the sole purpose of making money, though we know, as Wu Tang says, Cash Rules Everything Around Me (C.R.E.A.M.). I write for the passion of it. I tell stories because I have much to say. So, whether there is a golden carrot being dangled before me or not, still shall I scribble, dammit!
It’s what I do.
Some years ago, I entered an even BIGGER contest. The monetary award was substantial. More importantly, the exposure that the winner would receive was worth even more than the financial gain. I wanted the exposure.
I had just written a zombie novel the year previous and hoped that, with all the buzz concerning the undead eaters of human flesh, my book would be a shoo-in. However, Prince always talked about being ahead of the trends, not always doing what was currently popular. Of the 10,000 submissions, I made it through the first round of eliminations, which cut 8,000 authors out of the loop. I got excited, since my odds of winning had just substantially increased.
When I got the news that my book had been eliminated in the next round, it felt like somebody had deflated my tires. I sat around with my lip poked out for a few hours before my wife had a few choice words that sent me back to the drawing board. It made me strive to be better, not necessarily to win contests.
The key to finishing a marathon is to keep moving forward. Got a stitch in your side? Walk it out? Caught a cramp in your calf? Limp while shaking it out, but don’t stop moving. Though I’m sure it’s a cool thing to say you won the marathon, it’s still a triumph to say that you didn’t receive a single medal, but completed your mission, anyway.
A failure can do one of two things, depending on how you process it:
- Knock you completely off your nut, laying you out flat, making you give up and curse ever throwing your hat into the ring.
- Accept that there was something you could’ve done differently but not let the failure defeat you.
Didn’t win the race because you were too slow? Learn to run faster. Your dish wasn’t picked over the other chefs? Study the masters, then innovate. Didn’t claim the grand prize in a writing contest? No moping or long faces allowed; pick up your bottom lip, pick up your laptop, and keep pecking.
Fail today, use it as a springboard for improvement, strategize, and come back hard as hell. ‘Nuf said!