Literary Honors and Paralyzing Self-Doubt

Back in January I entered The San Clemente Bait Shop and Telephony in two literary contests. I believed the story to be solid by my own estimation and by the kind reviews submitted by readers. (Thank you!)

So why not?

To my utter amazement, I won the grand prize Lyra Award. This is an award given to independent book publishers by The Bookstore Without Borders folks. And, good golly, it came with a CASH prize that caused my heart to palpitate.  I also did the one-legged happy dance around the block. The Bookstore Without Borders people do an amazing job on their website connecting readers with independently published books here. (I also love these people because they used an ancient picture of me in their announcement.)

Many thanks to the judges for reading The San Clemente Bait Shop and Telephony with such care and kindness.

I was a finalist in the Colorado Book Award in the General Fiction category. I cried when I received the news. I’ve known about the award for many years but never had the courage to enter. I was in the big leagues now.

Or was I?

The other finalists were published with really big, traditional publishers. Maybe – and you know this could be true – I was a charity nod to an independently (read that: published by me) published book.

I attended the award ceremony in beautiful Parker, Colorado with many other hopefuls. (I’m looking rather blah and overwhelmed on the very right.)

Everyone was very nice and very nervous. I sat with a gifted poet who didn’t expect to win, like me, but he came to the ceremony with a tiny seed of hope that he would get the nod this time. He didn’t.

What I didn’t expect was how small and insignificant the whole experience left me feeling. I doubted my ability to tell a worthwhile story and considered giving up the writing gig altogether.

[Insert silent scream.]

Although I arrived each day at my computer to write, the words I produced were wooden. I hated everything I put on the page. It’s been a month since the awards ceremony, and I’m nearly recovered. I’m writing with a measure of verve and having a good time at it. And I do love my little story. I probably won’t subject myself to the process again. 

Have you ever regretted putting yourself up for an award or experienced unexpected consequences to an honor you’ve received?

4 thoughts on “Literary Honors and Paralyzing Self-Doubt”

  1. I think we all aspire to be the great, undiscovered writer when we enter contests or submit our writing to editors. What we often forget is that writing is subjective and judgment is dependent on the many things out of our control, including the reader’s mood at the time they open the book.

    Sometimes I think submitting our work for judgment serves a far higher purpose. It helps us to remember why we write, and what’s truly important to us.

    Keep your spirits up, and keep the stories coming.

  2. I’m the opposite Patti. I also entered one of my novels in the Lyra contest and it won first place in the women’s fiction category. Not as flash as overall winner, but I was happy. I danced around for days and felt so inspired to carry on writing. Sometimes I wonder why I bother and then I remember 1. I love writing, 2. see 1. 3. also see 1. Keep writing Patti. You are clearly very talented. 😀

    1. Congratulations, Jianna! Clearly, YOU are very talented.

      Don’t get me wrong, it felt very good to win the Lyra and to be a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. I may not have been clear. What is hard about the contests is how fleeting those feelings are, and if you’re going to keep writing you’ll need to find another reason besides accolades. It has to be–as you so wonderfully put–for the love of writing. For the satisfaction of getting something so cumbersome (a novel is that) right.

      Thanks so much for dropping by, Jianna!

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