I Lost, But –

I submitted a story to a contest. I didn’t win. I didn’t get a notable mention. For a few seconds, I felt as if I would never write again. Then I thought that I should change my aspirations for the future. A few minutes later, having climbed into bed and curled up in my black-covered duvet, I felt a little better and just decided to never share my writing with anyone ever again.
When I woke up from my nap, I stopped being ridiculous.
I may not be good enough to win a fiction contest to which only some dozens of people have entered stories. Alright. But two published authors who have taught me have told me that I will get published. That is exhibit A. Exhibit B is the fact that I’m on a forty-five day streak on the website 750words.com – meaning I haven’t missed even one day in the last month and a half of writing three-pages-worth of words. Sure, some days I had to cheat and write parts of essays or schoolwork within that blank white space, but it was still my original writing in there.
Exhibit C is the discover I made a couple months ago – my mental and emotional state deteriorate when I don’t write for a while. I doubted this at first, but it can’t be a coincedance that I started to feel more on top of things once I began to write fiction again. Exhibit D is that people have been reading my blog for months or years now and have seen my writing develop and improve. Exhibit E is the fact that sometimes, once in a while, on a rare day, even I think that I’m a decent writer.
So. Okay. I didn’t win the contest. Maybe the story wasn’t good enough. Maybe others were just much better. Maybe it wasn’t my time, as one of my friends put it. Whatever the reason, I’m not going to give up. I’m only twenty-one, for goodness’ sake. I’m only just finishing up my sophomore year of college. I’m going to freaking Oxford next year.
Anyway, haven’t I known the reality of my choices for years? When I was in second grade, I began to develop the ambition of becoming an actress. I nourished, cherished and worked at my ambition for years. When my father became ill and I retreated from the world to stay at home with him and my mother, I lost my confidence in acting and the mere idea of being in public in such a vulnerable position stopped being even remotely appealing. Instead, I developed my love of writing, a far more private endeavor that nevertheless connects me to people in its own way.
But the point is that since I was about seven years old, my parents warned me that going for a career in an art would be a long, hard slog. They told me that I may not make much or even any money and they reminded me that there are a lot of talented people out there. They didn’t say this to discourage me – they simply wanted me to be aware of the realities of the world. So my seven year old self began to be aware of the fact that I shouldn’t take my future employment for granted.
For fourteen years I’ve been aware that I may work at some sort of drudge-job that I don’t enjoy or that isn’t “ambitious” (whatever that means) in order to support myself while trying to work at what I love. I’ve decided recently that I’m going to get a bar-tending certificate after I finish college; I want to try working night shifts, and I want to be exposed to people, their stories and their lives in a way that few people get to be as fully as bartenders do.
My grandpa wanted me to be a doctor. When I took care of my father while he was sick, he reinforced the idea that I would make an amazing doctor. You know what? I would. I would make a wonderful doctor. I would be empathic and caring, personable and kind.
But I don’t want to be a doctor, and my not wanting to be one would, ultimately, make me hate my job – and that would probably affect my work eventually. I want to be an author. There. I said it. An AUTHOR. I already am a writer, and will be for the rest of my life if it depends on me. But I also want to be an author. I don’t know if I will be. But I’m going to try my damnedest.


11 thoughts on “I Lost, But –

  1. A certain writer I know used to pin his rejection slips up on a bulletin board. By the time the pushpin was so fat that it couldn’t hold any more, he finally had a bit of success. He started selling stories and then he sold a few more, then a novel and then a few more. He did that and Mr. KIng has had a pretty good career.

    He kept on submitting his stories and his ideas until finally he gained access to an audience. He refused to relate rejection to defeat and achieved his dream. He became an author.

    There are millions upon millions around the world who write well, even excellent. We all want the same thing, which is to stand out and be counted as one of those who have been published. For that to happen you only need one word.


  2. Chloe says:

    i’m sure glad to be apart of the mention: Exhibit D is that people have been reading my blog for months or years now and have seen my writing develop and improve.
    has it been 3 or more years that i’ve been reading your entries & in comlplete awe (& envy) of your writing 🙂
    you have grown into an awesome writer & you will get published

    and please don’t feel as though you’re failing just because you didn’t win this particular contest
    i have missed out on winning photography contests for years, it’s just the roll of the dice
    i often feel like i’ll never be a “professional” photographer or that my work will be in galleries or hung in the homes of rich families
    but i try to not loose faith & remember that i started taking photos because i love it


  3. Erin M says:

    First of all, HUGS.

    I completely understand your disappointment at not winning the contest, and your initial discouragement about your writing. But I also agree with all your exhibits for the case of why you should (must!) keep writing.

    And I want to say that I love your writing so much. I’m always blown away by your observations and your attention to detail. You are so excellent at capturing truths about life and the world and people/human nature.

    Bartending sounds like a great people-watching opportunity! What a good idea!

    And yes, if your heart’s not in it, I can’t imagine being a doctor would be very enjoyable. =\

    Keep writing, Ilana. You’re amazing. You are going to get where you want to be. I know you will.


  4. You are already an author of these pages. Writers write daily as Ed Griffin, one of my former Creative Writing instructors says and you can find his inspirational/helpful pages on my links page or google it on here but I think it is writerswritedaily 🙂 Keep on keeping on, don’t stop for anything. If you find you must, then you simply must. No other remedy will do than as Ralph Keyes says in his aptly titled book: The Courage to Write. Write On! You are one experience closer to a win 🙂

  5. Arisa says:

    Wow you’re only 21? Your writing is amazing! Something I want to strive for… only I’m almost 25 haha. So yeah keep going and don’t give up! You can’t win them all. Ever since I found your blog only recently I’ve been really enjoying your writing! I would say follow your dreams, that’s really brave and inspiring to me!

  6. I’m afraid your patients wouldn’t find “so you have a fucking headache?” as funny as I do. On a less biological note . . .

    Long ago I remember submitting a story into a Glimmer Train contest—even paid the entrance fee (I know, what a sap!)—nada. Not even a reply saying “Thanks for entering but you didn’t win/you suck.”

    I’m trying to remember the other two contests I entered . . . oh yeah, one was a BBC thing. Again, no response. Nothing from the third one either. Even a slight bit of constructive criticism would have been fantastic.

    I have zero problem saying I’m nowhere near the elite class of Steinbeck or Hemingway, hell I’m not even Dr. Seuss. But I can’t be any of them—I can only be me.

    So when my stories were eventually published I took great satisfaction in the reviews from total strangers. Words I could never have imagined would be said about my words. As others have said here you will be published. I would, without hesitation put money on it.

    Screw those contest slags. You’ve got the gift.

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