By Elizabeth Morris
For the very first time, around the end of October, 2022, I submitted a short story for an on-campus writing competition. The event was focused around the genre horror, so of course the competition was on who can submit the spookiest story. How convenient since at the time, all I had been writing were short horror stories for my thesis project. So, I picked my favorite, polished it up, and sent it (hesitantly) in.
The week following the submission deadline and the day of the event were excruciating. I craved this win so bad, as if it were the single most important thing to validate my status as a writer. I’ve never had anything published, nor have I ever submitted anything for a competition. Being an English major, I felt the pressure to get some sort of recognition for my writing so that in my brain and hopefully in the brains around me, I would be seen as a ‘real writer’.
The day of the competition arrives and dread has officially started to make me feel physically ill. My jaw hurt from clenching it, the insides of my cheeks were chewed raw, and I felt so queasy, I forgot to eat. I remember telling myself on the ride to campus, “I don’t care if I lose this competition, I’m proud of my work”. But deep down I knew no matter how much I reassured myself, the pain from losing would be much more powerful than the fabricated cheery thoughts in my head.
I didn’t win and much to my surprise I wasn’t sad, I was pissed. All this hard work and for what? I took a lap around campus and waited for the appointment I had with my thesis advisor. The walk I took gave me ample time to collect my thoughts and to neatly plan the rant I needed to unleash.
Getting into this meeting, I told my thesis advisor of the complete injustice I felt. The negative thoughts were blinding, but luckily voicing out my frustrations was the most important thing I could have done. To lose a competition on a piece of writing you worked hard on is soul crushing and to fester in the anger or sadness by yourself makes the loss seem even bigger. But after I talked to a trusted professor, that also believes in my skills as a writer, the loss became small. By the end of the meeting, the loss was crumpled up and thrown away. Taking that extra step to be vulnerable in an already very vulnerable state, made all the difference. Instead of going home and sulking around alone, I expressed my anger and turned it into motivation. Rejection comes with being a writer. It’s the unfortunate truth, but we can’t let one single loss prevent us from sharing all of the great stories we have to share.
-30 N staff