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It was a nice surprise to be among the winners of 8Letters’ Summer Dreams Writing Contest. And exciting too, because my story, The Mermaid Princess, will be included in an Anthology that will be launched at the biggest book festival of the Philippines, the Manila International Book Fair. This year, the MIBF will be held on September 12-16, 2018 at the SMX Convention Center in the Mall of Asia Complex.
As a writer, I must say that joining writing contests are not all about winning prizes or accolades, or getting a chance to be published. For me, it’s also about (1) flexing your writing muscles, (2) honing your craft, and (3) gaining self-discipline.
Flexing your writing muscles, because, you get to write–duh! ☺️ In joining a writing contest, you get into mandatory plotting, writing, editing a story. Beats doing nothing, or just letting yourself dream of writing. You write because you have to, with the deadline and all. But you get to write, and that’s the idea. Consider writing contests as writing exercises.
Honing your craft. This is where healthy competition becomes a stimulus to a writer. You are pitting against other writers who may or may not be more well-read, experienced, or eloquent than you. You may be clueless about the required genre or sub-genre. So what do you do? You read and research more, ask around, seek advice, and write to the best of your ability. You work hard to improve and perfect your skills to be able to produce the highest quality work you can come up with. Ergo, you become a more learned writer than you were before.
Gaining self-discipline because you have to stick to the required prompt and word count–not to mention beat the deadline. Sometimes you have to chop (delete) words, sometimes you have to wring your brains out to come up with additional words. At times you’d look at the calendar and count the hours and minutes until deadline. You’ll feel adrenaline kicking at you like a horse’s hooves. Your heart may gallop in excitement or dread, but it’s okay as long as you don’t get a nervous breakdown or a heart attack. But in the process, you gain discipline over yourself. You tame yourself to adapt to the contest rules.
In a nutshell, writing contests should be regarded as a writer’s learning or teachable moment. It’s not so much as the reward in winning one, although it’s a fantastic and humbling bonus, of course. But it’s the journey that makes it so fulfilling and gratifying, and you find yourself learning more, doing more, improving more–and finishing a story.