“Sometimes you win sometimes you lose/And sometimes the blues just get a hold of you/Just when you thought you had made it./ All around the block people will talk/But I want to give it all that I’ve got/ I just don’t want, I don’t want to waste it.” Carole King from the song “Sweet Seasons”
Okay, so I thought I had won a swim meet instead of a creative writing contest when I got this package in the mail last week. You have to understand, the military always shows its appreciation with stars, bars, and ribbons. Nevertheless, I proudly hung my blue first place and red second place ribbons on the door to my office to remind me that last week I was writing about rejection and this week I’m writing about acceptance. What a difference a week makes, right?
I entered this creative writing contest offered by the VA at the very last minute. I admit, I didn’t think they would like any of my work. My perspective on life seems at odds with what I assume most military minds are like. I must admit, the rejection of my cop essay from a law enforcement edition of “Rattle” left a slight aftertaste that had me believing that I couldn’t possibly fit my work into the military code. Still, these are my people, too – these military veterans whose health care package (like mine) comes in the form of VA hospitals and clinics. Not that I’m complaining, but one can see why the wealthier set wants to pay for their own health care. It’s like the choice between buying a new Mercedes or a used Ford. Personally, I think health care would move up several notches on the healing scale if we all used the same plan. Just sayin’.
Anyway, I pulled a couple of poems together, worked a little revision magic, and to my surprise and delight won first and second place in two of the creative writing categories. I should not have attempted to read the mind of the VA judge any more than I should have assumed I knew the mind of a cop editor who read my last essay. The difference was that by not assuming I would win, I had no expectations about the outcome. I worked on these two poems every bit as hard as I worked on that essay. As Carole King says, I gave “it all that I got” both times. The truth is “sometimes you win sometimes you lose.” It’s that simple.
Always write to win. That is my policy. I didn’t say expect to win. If you can, leave your expectations out to pasture where they can graze and chew their cud without getting all worked up about the outcome. If you knew in advance what score you would make, would you take the test? Take the risk? Try so hard?
Write to win every time and you will. Give it your best shot and you won’t regret it whether they choose your work or not. If the journal publishes you, great! If you don’t win the grand prize, so be it. You want to know you did your very best work. If you believe that in your heart, you won’t be disappointed long.
In the final analysis, your commitment is what counts. Never give up on yourself. Send it in, send it in, send it in again. This is how it’s done. Writing to win is hard work. The joy is in knowing that you are doing what you love.