If you get very quiet, you might hear a sweet little jig reverberating in cyberspace. But I’m not writing only to toot my horn, nice as it is to share good news. 🙂
I’m also inspired to share my “win” to encourage you to give yourself to what makes your heart sing. And, I invite you to consider: is there a “prize” only you can give you?
Was I losing all this time (as I told myself) or….
Writing, as you may have noticed, makes my heart sing. So does sharing it. Over the past many years, I have submitted my work to dozens and dozens of poetry contests and chapbook competitions (first to those for writers under thirty, then eventually for writers over fifty). I’ve sent work to literary journals, applied for Arts Council fellowship grants, and queried literary agents about book manuscripts. I have “scored” some, but relative to times I’ve aimed at the target, I’ve certainly missed the bullseye much more.
Gradually, I’ve redefined what scoring means, as well as what the bullseye is.
Scoring is getting to write– with all the delicious pleasure and challenge of that activity. And the bullseye? Well, that would be my heart. And yours.
When I write from the heart, I am hitting the jackpot; I am striking motherlode. Just to write is to win, regardless of whatever else happens or doesn’t beyond that. And if, by grace and sweet effort, I touch the other hearts with my words, well, then I have really hit the bullseye!
Winning this award came as a surprise.
I wasn’t going to enter this contest. I was helping a friend, a gifted poet whose work deserves publication, prepare some of her exquisite poems to submit for the Peter K. Hixson Memorial Award for Creative Writers.
When she turned to me to ask if I would be submitting my poetry, I replied: ” Nope. Been there, done that and I’ve never developed a thick skin for rejection.” We left it at that.
Later that night, about a half hour before the midnight deadline, I decided to go for it, not because I believed I had a chance at winning. Rather, I felt inspired by my current intention to write and let go, just to write and let go without attachment to outcome.
I had to dismiss my inner perfectionist (easier given the hour and my tiredness) in order to pull together the five poems required. I wrote the necessary personal statement freely, as if in response to a random writing spark I might offer at a writing group. Had to be less than 1000 characters including spaces. Here are my 995:
“Recently, someone told me that at age 70 our karma for this lifetime is complete-we’ve paid our karmic debts and learned the lessons that were ours to learn. If we live that long, she said, we are free and clear to reinvent ourselves for the duration. Less than 4 years from turning 70, I know that every moment left me is precious. I do have lessons yet to learn and wisdom to harvest and share. I want to write my way home.
My life has been dedicated to caring for others: my parents who survived the Holocaust, my three children, and the families and children I have worked with.Two years ago, my 28-year-old, differently-abled son (who I thought might always live under my roof) moved into a supported living arrangement. I never dreamed this would happen–or I should say, I only dreamed it.
So this is my life after life. All along I’ve “stolen” time to write and send out work on a meager ration of time & money. Now, more than anything I want to write freely and share my work.”
Just when I had given up, not on writing, but on trying to control the outcome…
A few minutes before midnight, I finished submitting my work online with nary a look back and no expectation of winning. It was the least “attached” I had ever been in the process of submitting my work to be “judged.”
After returning from a long, delicious walk by the river, I heard the unexpected phone message of congratulations, the news that my poems had been selected as “outstanding” among hundreds of applicants. The prize: $1800 in submission services. Over the course of the next six months, my poetry will be submitted for publication to an array of carefully chosen literary journals.
I get to just write and let go. A prayer answered.
Just when I gave up, not on writing, but on being able to control the outcome of my writing, and just when I decided, with more resolve than ever, that my worthiness as a writer and the worth of my writing cannot depend on anything or anyone outside of me– that’s when I “scored” some outer recognition.
It’s a nice perk, definitely. But it is not the biggest prize, and not the most important.
The bigger prize is how I feel when I write, when I reach for the sturdy words to build a bridge of meaning to you that is not only functional but beautiful, too. The bigger prize is when I aim to reach your mind and heart and seem to make it–and when I am just as all right if it’s a total miss.
The jackpot is gratitude for all of it.
What makes your heart sing?
What does winning mean in your life? What’s hitting the jackpot?
What dear “prize” can only you give to you?
If writing makes your heart sing, too, then check out these FREE RESOURCES from Dance of the Letters
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