I recently entered my book, Surviving Childlessness, in a contest for SparkLit (Australian Christian Book of the Year). It failed to get shortlisted.
And I don’t mind.
Why? It’s not because I didn’t care about the contest. Or my book. Of course I would like my book to do well. I believe in it, and I believe in its message of hope and solidarity. I believe it has the capacity to encourage many readers who resonate with the theme of childlessness.
But a contest is a good reality check. It keeps me humble. It reminds me what I do is for God and my readers—not necessarily for the judges of contests.
I believe in my book…but a contest is a good reality check.
Rejection legitimises one’s writing. All of us writers get rejected at some point, and we get rejected far more often than we get accepted. So being rejected helps me feel I’m part of a tribe of writers who are genuinely trying to get their words out there.
Additionally, failing at a contest acclimatises me to risk-taking. It gets me used to exposure, to being criticised, to being in a vulnerable position. All of which are good for me. Writing is not safe—no form of art is—and if I only play it safe, I’m only fooling myself.
Entering a contest puts me back ‘out there’.
Writing is not safe—no form of art is.
Failing in SparkList also reminds me of God’s calling. I know God has given me a passion for writing, but I also know he has not called me to be a bestseller. ‘Never say never’, people caution me, and I realise God can do what he likes with my writing. But if he chooses to make me a bestseller, that’s his business, not mine.
For now, God has given me ideas for niche books that belong in niche markets. That means they won’t be bestsellers. And I’m OK with that, because I know I’m on track. I know I’m writing exactly the kinds of books I’m meant to be.
Being rejected in a contest reminds me of that too.
I’m writing exactly the kinds of books I’m meant to be.
There’s one more reason why I don’t mind losing. It’s because I’m losing to other fabulous writers. I’m losing to worthy and needed books, all of which have been sparked by God and written for his glory. I have absolutely no problem with stepping aside to make way for those books—and for my Christian brothers and sisters.
Writing, even in a contest, is not a competition. It’s a chance to support other writers, my tribe. Whichever books get shortlisted, and whichever books win, it’s all for God’s glory. And it will encourage my fellow writers. That is always a worthy cause.
I don’t mind that at all.
Have you ever entered a writing contest? Would you enter again? How do you respond to losing, and to rejection in general? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.