I got my results back from the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge in the early hours of this morning (only the score, as feedback will come later this week), and it would be a mild understatement to say I’m a bit disappointed. I thought that maybe there was some possibility that I would knock this one out of the park and make it into the top 5 to head to Round 3.
I got zero.
I wasn’t expecting that. I also didn’t know I was going to be as disappointed as I am (I wonder if it’s just a case of bad timing with a number of other things that have been going on recently—more on that later). I certainly didn’t think my piece was award-winning, but I thought it was an interesting take on the prompts, and I also believe it was well-written—there you go peeps, there’s that artistic arrogance I’ve so energetically touted in the past. But seriously, I’m feeling pretty down about it all. Part of what pisses me off about failing is the need to justify why you’re upset about said failure. All of a sudden, everyone in the whole damn world is knocking on your door to tell you why you shouldn’t be upset and how lucky you are. So, let me deal with that first.
Newsflash: I get it.
I get that I’m privileged because I have the time and space and money to enter these competitions, and I understand that there are people who’ve been doing these same competitions for some years and never yet scored points in them. I know, too, that some people have been writing for years, if not decades, and I’ve only (seriously) returned to writing creatively in the past two-three years. I understand all of that. But if you’re going to comment on this post telling me that I’m just ‘so lucky’ that I got points in the first round on the first time I did this challenge, then please don’t bother: I’m in a pretty bad mood and I may well just delete your comment. So it’ll be a waste of time for all parties.
Now, when I decided to participate in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge, I decided that my reasons for doing so would be very simple. It would offer me an opportunity to be challenged by the competition’s strict stipulations about word length, genre, location and item, which I felt would force me outside my comfort zone and continue my development as a writer. That was, ostensibly, my primary reason for participating. The other, less-discussed reason was that I think I’m a good writer, and I wanted (after numerous magazine submission rejections) to participate in something a little different… I wanted to do well.
It’s always difficult to be forced to accept that you aren’t good enough to make the mark.
That’s the hardest part for me, is the knowledge that I wasn’t good enough. Not even for a single point. And I think part—though by no means, all—of the reason that this hit so hard is that I’ve been feeling really down a few things recently. Predominantly blogging and writing. As I’m nearing the end of my novel (I think), I feel more and more that when I finally finish transcribing it and begin to edit it, I’m going to be completely overwhelmed by the amount of work that still needs to be done. There’s a small and terrifyingly noisy part of me that keeps insisting that it’s little more than a mishmash of events I’ve plunged my MC into because I didn’t know what else to do (actually a relatively accurate summary of how I went about writing it, so I guess I deserve everything I get). That it’s a mess, pure and simple, and in order to fix it, it won’t be a matter of ‘editing’ so much as butchering the whole thing, and then sobbing as I struggle to assemble a million tiny little pieces into something resembling a story. Just the thought of that is an incredible weight on my shoulders.
As for blogging, I’m struggling with the point of it all. I would be the first person to admit that, while I don’t just blog to be read, it would be a complete fallacy if I said that I wasn’t doing this to achieve communication and networking with, and feedback from, other writers and people who might read my work. With that in mind, it is thus important to me to reach people and to have my words heard: if I didn’t care about that, I’d probably just keep a journal instead of a blog (and there’d be a lot less bloody pressure to get the stupid thing written in accordance with some stupid schedule I’ve arbitrarily decided I’ll abide by).
In all honesty, it feels like everywhere I look, there are other people reaching more readers, interacting with more people who are interested or invested in their work and generally just accomplishing more through their blog. There are people who are achieving. And I feel like I’m not, but I can’t really figure out where I’m going wrong. I spend a lot of time and effort in networking for my blog. Maybe that’s a bit of an unromantic and mundane thing to say, but I’ve worked hard to meaningfully connect with those people whose blogs I follow. I do my best to periodically get around my WordPress reader list to chat to people about their work in a way that is encouraging and thoughtful, while also offering some critical insight (if at all possible). Yet the vast majority of those people don’t interact with me. I’m not saying its a tit-for-tat kind of thing where if I comment, they HAVE to comment back… But I am saying that it would be nice if people worked to support other people in their network who are trying just as hard and feeling really down about it all. [Disclaimer: I’d like to take this chance to send a huge shout out to Jac and Nik. It sounds crazy, but every time I feel down about my blog I think about how much support you’ve shown me and I feel really reassured and encouraged—thank you so much for interacting with my work, for discussing your ideas with me and generally just keeping me going.]
But people are interested in what others are doing, and the means the only conclusion I can reach is that my content is lacking (I mean, my own family doesn’t read my blog—what does that tell you?).
I’m not really sure where to go from there.
Finally, places like Twitter are truly awesome for helping you get in contact with other like-minded people. Optimally, you’re able to build a community that supports one another, exchanges ideas and grows together: and I’ve met some great friends and some brilliant human beings in this way who’ve been very encouraging and friendly. That being said, it can also be incredibly difficult to read about what other people are doing, especially when everyone else also seems to be validating them and their ideas, while you’re feeling invisible. It’s also awesome when people follow you so you’ll follow them back, then unfollow you (honestly, that’s a jerk move). It just feels sometimes like I’m investing all of this time and energy into something that could be a dead end: does that mean I’m going to stop? Probably not, because I’ll probably wake up tomorrow and re-attack it all, and if I want to succeed, I have to be committed to surviving and learning from failure in order to continue to grow and develop… It’s a long road, and the only way to make it down one of those is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. But it still stinks.
So, knowing that I’ll get up again and try tomorrow, today I’m going to give myself permission to feel defeated and downhearted about this, because failing sucks.