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The magic in winning a writing contest

In my earlier post, “How to Use Writing Contests to Reach Your Goals,” I mentioned one of my main goals this year was to enter more writing contests. I haven’t been consistent in entering contests in the past but this year, with the prompting of my blog partner Carly, I wanted to create a new habit.

Each month, I have a goal to enter X number of competitions and/or submit my work to various places. This helps me celebrate the little successes, build my artist resume, and gain some much-needed inspiration and motivation along the way to my larger goals.

This February, I entered the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference Literary Contest and earlier this month found out I was a finalist in two categories:—memoir/nonfiction and poetry. I was thrilled. Jumping up and down. Ecstatic!

And amazingly, this Saturday night at the awards ceremony I won first place in the memoir/nonfiction category. I’m still ecstatic but now I can add grateful, blessed, and humbled. And, grateful. Did I mention grateful?

Creating a writing life isn’t easy. There are bills to pay and doubts to overcome. Though I inherited my grandparents’ stubborn Norwegian constitution and don’t give up without a fight, there are days when even my heritage doesn’t save me.

Two to three weeks before the contest, we went through a rough patch at our house. As a result, I began to seriously doubt myself as a writer, doubt my ability to ever “make money as a writer,” and doubt whether or not I could even form a decent sentence or tell a basic story.

And then a funny thing happened. I won the contest. All that doubt, fear, and darkness magically evaporated as if Harry Potter had tapped me on the head with his magic wand. There is magic to winning a contest (or even being a finalist). The magic is what we gain in perspective and self-confidence.

What’s the best time to enter a contest? Now. Don’t wait until you think it’s “perfect” because it’s never perfect. Part of the process of becoming a writer and having a writing life is learning to accept rejection and move on.

And if you don’t win? Submit again. And again. And again. Never give up.

I submitted my memoir to the PNWA contest three times before winning. I kept working on it, kept discovering my “real” story, kept honing my craft. My winning entry was miles different than my first entry. Now, the book is done and while it makes its way to agents, I continue writing my next book. Never stop writing.

With discipline, determination, and passion we writers can make anything happen. I’m living proof.

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