Recently the opportunity to enter a contest fell into my lap. To enter, you have to be an unpublished novelist. All that is required is 10 manuscript pages. There isn’t even an entry fee.
My first response was “I should enter this.” After all, I think I’d stand a pretty good chance of winning. I may be an unpublished novelist but I’m a solid writer. And the first few chapters of my work-in-progress are really good. It isn’t until about the half way point that the story wanders into the weeds.
Irritatingly enough, my husband is Prince of the Practical. “What’s the prize?” Admittedly it isn’t something I especially want. What I do want is the pat on the back and the ability to say, “Look at me! I’m a winner!”
The problem with taking the hour or so it would take to apply is that this is an hour or so that I couldn’t spend working on one of my four ongoing projects. That’s right. Four. Two picture books. My middle grade novel. A younger middle grade nonfiction project. Bringing any or all of these things to completion would be a really good thing.
Entering the contest? Meh. It’s a thing but not really an essential thing.
I am all about saying yes to opportunities. That’s why I’m generally willing to attempt a requested rewrite or to try a new format with a project. But entering this contest won’t move me closer to having an agent. It won’t be a step toward publication. As far as I can tell, winning wouldn’t move me toward either of these goals either.
As writers, we are often hungry for recognition or a pat on the back. Money is also tempting. Because of all of these desires, we often jump at every opportunity. The key is recognizing the opportunities that will actually move you toward your goals. This means that you have to know what your goals are.
So as you consider the various opportunities that come your way, give it a little thought. What are your goals this week? This month? This quarter? This year? Does this opportunity further any of these goals? If not, try to figure out why it is tempting and then you will know whether or not it is worth your valuable time and creative energy.