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What Is It About Writing Contests?

Renee Walsh wonders why she, a lover of all contests, is sometimes hesitant to enter writing contests.

By Renee Walsh

April 27, 2023

Renee on Wheel of Fortune I’m a big fan of contests and games. It doesn’t matter if it’s a boardwalk game, a chance auction, or a giveaway on social media. If it involves the chance of winning something, even if it’s just the bragging rights for crushing the daily Wordle-off with my family, I almost always jump at the chance to participate.

I’m not exactly sure what it is that I like so much. Is it the thrill of the win? The competition? The chance at winning a prize? Maybe. I’ve won lots of cool things including concert tickets, designer bags, and bundles of cash over the years. I was even a contestant on The Wheel of Fortune!

So what is it about writing contests that makes me a little gun-shy? Why, when information about a writing contest shows up on my Instagram feed or my Submittable page, do I hesitate before throwing my hat into the ring?

Of course, there’s the fear of rejection or not winning, but I think something deeper is probably at play. With a writing contest, someone is judging not just my writing, but my thoughts, my ideas, my stories. What if the judges think my writing is terrible? What if I’m wasting my time and money? Or even what if I actually do win and there’s no turning back? These questions can sometimes pack so much power, they keep me from hitting the submit button at all. What’s a contest-loving writer to do with all that?

Feel the fear and do it anyway. That’s my motto. If I always stay in my comfort zone, I’m not going to grow.

Have I entered writing contests? Yes. Have I won any? Not in a while, but I have gotten some positive and encouraging feedback along the way. If nothing else, writing contests get me to take a closer look at my work, to practice taking the necessary risks that come with being a writer, and yes, they give me the thrill of being in it to win it.

Next time I see a writing contest I’m on the fence about, I’ll boost myself up with the line for NY Lotto, “Hey, you never know.” And then, I hope, I’ll find the courage to hit submit.

Renee Walsh previously wrote for a lifestyle public relations house in New York City and currently teaches reading and writing workshops to elementary-