Thursday, January 30, 2014

Feed Your Muse With Writing Contests

From Cheryl's Writing Crate

In last week's post, I shared what I felt my writing strengths and weaknesses were.  Since I've always been a "list person" and somewhat goal oriented, just re-reading that post gave me lots to think about but more importantly, it helped me stay the course with my organization and daily writing rituals.  

In that post I discussed one strategy I plan on implementing in order to improve my muse as well as help keep me excited and that is entering writing contests.  Years ago I went through a phase where I entered several writing contests, and I actually won three of them—two were paid essays in Chicken Soup for the Soul books so this year I'm gearing up to enter some contests that appeal to my writing style and my interests--mainly humor and family-style essays.  

I recently did some research as to the benefits of entering writing contests and here is what I found:

  • Receive Recognition:
In certain writing contests winners earn cash and the opportunity to have their work published in various publications or on-line sites.  In addition to the thrill of entering and winning, it's a nice way to build your writing portfolio.
  • Remove Writer’s Block:
Because contests have deadlines, you’re forced to push yourself beyond your writer’s block. If necessary, write in the morning, set it aside during the day, and rewrite at night. Submitting means you’re getting your work out in the world.
  • Get Feedback:
Not all contests offer feedback, of course, but it’s one of the perks of some. Constructive criticism is necessary for growth and to write outside of your comfort zone.
  • Stretch Your Skills:
 “Send your best work” means revise, proofread, read it aloud, share it with a trusted friend or writing partner, listen to advice, take what works, and when you are satisfied, send it out. You’ll learn from doing that, but you’ll also learn from reading at least an excerpt or two from any periodical you’re submitting to.  
  • Stretch Your Subject Matter:
Try writing to contests that send a theme. See what you have to say on a particular subject. Try writing in a genre you have not explored. See how well you can express yourself on subjects that are new.
  • Fees:
Most contests ask you to pay for administration time, reading time, and responding time. The money also offsets the cost of prizes. NOTE: If you feel that you should not pay for contests, don’t enter…or broaden your thinking for six months or even three. Give it a try and see if your writing improves.

Finding trustworthy writing contests can be a concern for writers.  Here are three resources to help you get started:

Here are three resources. They will undoubtedly lead you to more:
  1. Funds for Writers:
  2. Poets & Writers (classifieds):
  3. Writer Advice:
You can also find opportunities in national magazines such as Woman's Day, Good Housekeeping and other publications that reach thousands of readers.  

Don't lose sight of the real prize when entering a writing contest--while undeniably satisfying, a winner’s check in your hot little hand is not the real prize. The more you write, the better you’ll become—but you know that. “Practice makes perfect” is an old adage that has not faded with time.

So, what is the prize? Even as you mail your entry, whether you win or not, you have triumphed. For it takes the spirit of a winner, the heart of an artist, and the determination of a corporate magnate to create, manifest, and bare your soul with your writing, and submit it to a contest.

If you are satisfied you submitted your best work  and if you enjoyed the writing process and if you learned something in your self-imposed workshop—you are a winner!

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