From time to time, I offer a round-up of contests sponsored by a range of sources in my KWD posts. One of these reasons I gather these and pass them on is to remind us all that there are all sorts of publishing opportunities available.
Just recently, Martha of Martha’s Pencil (marthaspencil.com — love that name!) sent me a note saying that she was pulling together a submission but found that it was a lot of work. At the end of her note, she added that she felt that the submission process had value because it encouraged her to organize and reassess some pieces she had written.
I can definitely relate to the amount of work required to submit. As I said in my reply to Martha, I recently submitted the draft of an unfinished play to a major workshop program that offered residencies. The whole application process was rigorous and time-consuming. In the end, my piece wasn’t accepted, but I don’t regret having submitted it. Here are a few reasons why I think giving these types of opportunities a shot can be worthwhile:
It puts us in the game: “You have to be in it to win it” — this may be an ad slogan, but it contains a nugget of truth. We can write and write until the cows come home, but if we don’t get our work out in the world, we’re hiding our light under a bushel. And of course, there’s always the possibility that we may strike gold and win big. Someone will.
It gives us a chance to bet on ourselves: I think that often just the act of saying yes to yourself by pulling something together for submission — and the progress you make because of a deadline— are almost as important as actually being selected.
It takes us out of our comfort zone: Submitting to contests or residency programs is a form of writing dangerously because it takes us out of our comfort zone. And as my friend and mentor Coach Mike Tully (Totalgameplan.com)) once said, your dreams always lie outside your comfort zone.
It encourages us to revisit work: Submitting my play gave me the opportunity to revisit a piece that means a lot to me. Pulling it out and looking at it with fresh eyes challenged me to rethink the play and how I might revise it. I also discovered that I still have a passionate attachment to the theme I explored. While I had to forgo a tailor-made opportunity to work on it, I realized that I can create the opportunity to revise it on my own.
It encourages us to finish and polish pieces: This to me is one of the biggest benefits of submitting — an external deadline can give you the motivation to finish and polish a piece that might otherwise languish.
It encourages us to step outside our work: Submitting a piece for evaluation by one set of reviewers or another can give you the chance to take a look at its strengths and weaknesses from a fresh, and often revealing, perspective.
If anyone has experience and insights on this, I’d love to hear them. Write on!