I’ve been trying to think of a word that adequately describes the action of not being short listed in a competition.
The Bingo Short Story winners were announced yesterday. I did not make the short list. Granted, some of the comments made about the winning stories do make it seem as though their efforts were much more dynamic and original than my own. Yet, I was pleased with my effort and to not have at least some acknowledgement of that does sting a little.
I can not call this a rejection. Yet I did not earn enough merit to be mentioned. This places me in a kind of limbo between being acknowledged as a competitor and yet also ignored because I did not place in the competition. I realise it is not a personal snub of my writing; other stories were perhaps better suited to the competition, were exceptionally written or had more interesting ideas. But to not know why my writing did not resonate enough to be mentioned…well, that’s frustrating.
I had faith in my story. I thought it was good enough. Not seeing my name on that list yesterday leads me to believe my story has lost it’s shine. Or never had any shine to begin with. Suddenly I feel bewildered. It causes me to question my ability and reflect on the pride I felt for my work when I initially entered it into the competition. It allows doubt to enter into the mind.
I’m sure this is not unusual. There are other competitions I entered and did not make the cut. It’s just that I was never sure then that I was submitting my best efforts. In this instance, I thought I had. More than that: I know I did. I could not have improved the story any more. I’m just not used to my best not being good enough.
Now I feel very critical of myself. I’ve been over my current story – the last line story – with a red pen and pulled it apart. It looks like I’m back in school with a piece of homework that was sloppily dealt with. I don’t know if I can fix it. All I know is that I can’t move backwards and dwell on the Bingo story. I have to carry on.
This is what experience teaches us. We can’t go back and fix the mistakes we made because, sometimes, they aren’t mistakes, they’re just things that happen not to have turned out the way we hoped. In these cases we have to pick ourselves back up and keep on going like nothing has happened.
In this case, nothing has. Entering my story into that competition has not changed anything in concrete terms. It won’t change my writing, it won’t change my resolve and it won’t change my ambition to become a published author.
Whilst I’m sitting in the limbo of the unacknowledged rejection I might as well continue on my way. The only obstacle that might prevent me from doing so would be of my own making, and I refuse to be put off by some voice in my head that doesn’t have the courage to understand that this is not failure: it’s just one competition. This is part of what makes a writer: the determination to persevere even when we can’t be sure our writing will get us where we want to be.
Yet, the one thing I know in absolute terms is that writing is the only way to get where I want to be. So I’m going to carry on doing it. Acknowledgements or not.