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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Writer's Digest et al

Back in May, I was collaborating with a good friend of mine. We decided to work together as writers in an attempt to spur each other on. This way, we would be responsible to someone else, held accountable for failing to submit or finish a manuscript. And it worked... for a while. Life has a way of getting in the way.

My previous job was very demanding, time-wise. It wanted us peons to spend most of our free time catching up. Even the fast writers were unable to adhere to the ridiculously strict schedule. Because of this, and the fact that I spent 10 hours a day writing, the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was write MORE. I realize now that writing is a BAD job for a writer, unless you are writing something you love and that you want to write. My friend, likewise, was spending most of his time working, and so we both fell out of the groove and lost touch a few months back. It is high-time we started collaborating again.

But I digress. One of the things I DID finish was a short story of mine. I submitted a version of this story to my school's literary magazine, and it was accepted. I was thrilled! A historical fiction-suspense-mystery-thriller short story was accepted with all the poems and life lesson shorts that seem to inundate the more "academic" mindset. My professors all loved the story, as did my peers. It wasn't until I joined a writing workshop that people were able to tear holes in it - which I was immensely grateful for! After all, the only way to make something better is to know where it's broken.

I fixed the story after doing an extensive amount of research into writing styles, current events, and locations of the time period. I daresay it was nigh-perfect, yet I would still improve upon it if I could. A writer never finishes, he just surrenders. I submitted the piece to a contest being held by Writer's Digest. I was told that my friend was able to get 9th place in the competition previously, and our quality if writing is comparable. I felt assured that I would at least make it into the top 100.

Yesterday, I finally discovered the results of this competition. After hundreds of hours on this 7-page story, I felt a little disappointed that it wasn't in the top 10... or 50... or 100. The story that won the grand prize was later disqualified for being previously published... twice. I read the thing, and though it was still well written, it had that same damnable "life lesson" feel that all of them seem to share now. It was not remarkable. But what does that say about my piece? Did it drown in a sea of submissions, or am I simply not as talented as I was led to believe?

I realize, however, that dwelling on this, brooding over it until it festers, is not going to help. It will just make me more cynical and less constructive. I have to keep writing. I will not be sending things out to contests for a while, as they usually cost money. I am unemployed, and finding work is proving to be an insurmountable obstacle in these tough times, especially in this area. I may be returning to school to pursue a degree in engineering. I am also soon to become a father. My wife and I are expecting our first child in March. In about 100 days, life as we know it will end, and a new one will take its place. A life of sleepless nights, diapers, crying, throw up, tantrums, penny-pinching, curiosity, discovery, and love. Through all this, I must still find the time to write. Perhaps it will provide further impetus or inspiration. And if I cannot return to school for whatever reason, I may well become a stay-at-home dad. Who knows, maybe I'll have a fatherhood blog coming.

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