Setback: A New Motivation
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I’ve known the answer to that since I was just a child (with the exception of maybe a month in the third grade when I wanted to be a lawyer, thanks to Legally Blonde).
Now that I am two decades into my life, I feel it is my duty to make those dreams come true–and fast. I spend many free days editing and writing, and I often feel discouraged when I simply do not have enough time to constantly work on my hobbies. So when I get the opportunity, I take advantage of it.
Most times, I would say the hardest part of being a writer is battling one’s own lack of self-esteem. I am always worried that I am not a good writer, that I am wasting my time by trying. Defeat sneaks up on me without notice, and I am sucked into a cyclone of thoughts, failure and discouragement surrounding me. I sometimes punish myself when I do not have the time to write, or if something I was counting on does not work out.
For example, I submitted a short story, The Monstrous Form, to the Literary Magazine at my university in Spring 2019, and when I finally heard back, they told me I did not make it in. I felt very empty inside after I found out, thinking that I did not have what it takes.
After all, if I would not even be published in a university magazine, I would not make it far in the “real world” of writing.
I poured a lot of energy into that short story, and I was extremely proud of it, so the failure resonated within me for months. Sometimes, I still think about it, as I have every short story contest I have entered, since I have never received publication for my fiction work.
I considered this a defeat, and I took it badly, letting it consume my sleep, seeing that emptiness when I looked in the mirror, thinking, “I am not an author.” But just a couple weeks ago, I learned that it was not a failure, but it was a mere setback. Maybe it is just my optimism talking, but I know that is the correct terminology.
I entered The Monstrous Form to another contest this summer, the Writer’s Digest 88th Annual Writing Competition, without editing or changing that much of the story. I kind of forgot about it until I opened an email that said I had received Honorable Mention for the Mainstream/Literary Short Story category I had entered.
Honorable Mention does not mean I am awarded publication, nor does it mean I get a cash prize, but nonetheless, I am excited and honored to have received an Honorable Mention.
While this might also seem like a failure to some, since I did not take home the trophy, I see this as a victory, at least for the eyes of my self-esteem. I had been crushed by not receiving publication in our university magazine, and I thought that was a sign that my story was not good, but in a professional competition, it received Honorable Mention out of several entries the judge had read.
My story is still not published, but now I am visualizing the stepping stones, and I am going to take my story’s journey as a setback, one step at a time. A reason to keep going. An inspiration.
I am supposed to hear back soon from the university’s literary magazine for the contest of Fall 2019. I know that it will still be heartbreaking if my newest short story does not make it in, but I now realize that means it is only going to become a challenge, and I am going to overcome it.
For me, the hardest part of being a writer is the lack of self-esteem, but I am going to work on that, and that means I need to fail a few times, experience a few setbacks, before I can truly appreciate success in my writing. And I hope that a publication will be on its way so that I can share it with you all here.