Motivation · Writing

Writing Contests

A few months ago I entered my first writing contest, the results of which just came out. I wasn’t a finalist (which wasn’t a surprise since it was my first contest), but they did provide feedback and scores. The feedback was helpful, and mostly constructive, even if I didn’t agree with all of it.

The biggest conclusion I came to was that writing contests are subjective. Like with any creative endeavor, the reader will judge a piece differently based on their background, skill set, and interests. With this particular contest, there was a 39 point difference between the highest score and the lowest score I received. The contest was out of 100. In school, that would have been the difference between an A and an F.

The emotional difference between getting an A and getting an F is huge. On one hand, it’s amazing to open a score sheet and see a 95. On the other hand, it makes me wonder if the judge missed some obvious mistakes. Same goes for getting a 56. Seeing that number makes your heart drop and makes you wonder why you’re even bothering to write. Then you start to question if the judge was being hypercritical, and if your writing was really as bad as they made it seem.

The truth, I feel, is probably somewhere in the middle, which is how the third judge scored me. I know I have areas where I can improve, but I’m probably not a total screw up either.

‘They’ always tell you that you should take contest feedback with a grain of salt. If only one person mentions a potential issue, you should look at it, but it might be fine just the way it is. If more than one person points out a flaw, you should probably address it.

I hope to use the feedback I got in this contest, and any future feedback, as constructive criticism that will make my writing stronger. I’m also aware that authors, and artists of all kinds, get dozens, or hundreds, or even thousands of rejections before they get accepted. This was a really good test for me, both for the strength of my writing, and for my ability to handle criticism wisely.

I think I passed.