So You Want to Enter a Writing Contest?

August 25, 2014

If you are reading this, congratulations! After squandering away many years “polishing your voice,” you have finally won the struggle against your defamatory insecurities and decided to rally just enough confidence to submit an original composition to a panel of petty, judgmental strangers for serious scrutiny. However, before you can haughtily accept your grand prize in front of an audience of jealous peers, you are tasked with the burden of producing a piece of writing deemed superior to hundreds, thousands, or maybe even millions of others. You should be proud as this requires a special breed of arrogance to believe you can overcome those odds, but somebody has to win, right?

Before starting the journey towards your flash of literary fame, you must first ask yourself, “About what will I write” (because there continues to exist many that hold tightly to the antiquated rule that sentences should not end with a preposition). When selecting a topic for your article, I recommend expounding on a subject that appeals to your specific judge’s bias. In most cases this will be public chain-smoking, the benefits of coffee addiction, or the advantages of alcohol-induced creativity. However, if you are unable to uncover the identity of the person charged with contemplating your fate as an award-winning writer, you’ll need a subject that garners the interest of a broad and general audience such as cats, the trails of dating, raising kids, or Justin Bieber. If the contest you are entering provides the topic for you, then you can skip this paragraph.

After dedicating a topic to your soon-to-be, critically lauded composition, it is time to brace yourself for the agony of the creative process. The labor pains you will encounter while giving birth to a gratifying strand of sentences are sometimes slow, long, and painful. As you sweat, breath, and push the words out of your brain, it is not uncommon to experience debilitating doubt, sleepless nights, and a general asocial attitude. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and/or/maybe depressed, it helps taking a break every now and then to practice your acceptance speech in the bathroom mirror.

Once you have compromised your writing-style in order to fulfill the guidelines and requirements of this contest, it is time to talk yourself into a writer’s least favorite responsibility: proofing. As you carefully inspect your modern classic for grammatical-errors and tpyos, it helps to pretend that you are reading a composition of an inferior talent such as John Irving, Salman Rushdie, or Margaret Atwood because judging others is not only fun but allows you an opportunity to be just as critical of your own work.

After delivering your brainchild to the writing contest officials, there is nothing left to do but daydream about your forthcoming accolades. An optional best practice to ponder while you wait is preparing a list of names of everyone that never supported or believed in you. This way, the moment you win, you can spend most of your day reveling in the taste of your new-found fame rather than mired with the task of remembering who all deserves the customary “suck it!” email or Facebook wall post.

Good luck!


by Cary Vaughn (2014)