When I was in school, I always wanted to enter contests. Writing contests, art contests, speech contests, acting contests. I wanted to try out everything, because the potential wins seemed so glorious.
My enthusiasm often got the better of me, though. One time, I won an art contest when I thought I had entered for poetry. One time I entered a speech contest, got rousing applause, and then was promptly disqualified because I went over time. About a million other times I entered writing contests and never heard anything ever again. Not a peep. I watched friends –and frenemies—win over and over while I bit the inside of my cheek and wondered what they could do that I couldn’t.
Then, one time, I actually won something. I somehow managed to squeak by a few judges and I was invited to join other grade-level writing winners at a Young Authors’ Conference. It was at this conference where I got to sit on the floor, drink some McDonald’s orange drink, and listen to Paula Danziger talk about writing. For the first five minutes of her speech I had no idea who she was. I was waiting for singing angels and soft lighting and air that glittered – because these were the things that would happen when a Real Author entered a room, right? Instead, I looked over my shoulder, craned my neck to catch a glimpse of angels, and then finally, finally realized… what! This regular lady was the author of my favorite books! What! And that was the moment it hit me. You don’t have to win contests, and you don’t have to be fancy. You don’t have to be surrounded by glitter or angels. You can just be you and still be a writer. Paula Danziger was a regular human just like me, and she inspired me to want to write instead of win.
So, yes, of course, enter all the writing contests you want. But also remember that the writing is the thing. Your writing will take you anywhere – everywhere! And you never have to a win a contest for that to be true.