As I told you in my previous blog post, I recently submitted some poetry to a Dutch writing contest, Write Now!. I was very nervous to put my writing out there and it has been quite a process.

I have been publicly writing for some time now, on this blog and for several literary platforms, but that was always different. It was always non-fiction, there were professionals guiding me along and most importantly, it wasn’t a contest. I just had to provide a good article, I didn’t have to compete with the other writers. Now I do and that’s kind of weird. I can be a competitive person in many fields, but I find it hard to be competitive on creativity. It’s so subjective and I don’t think I’d be very jealous if other texts turn out to be better: good for them, and I still stand behind my own texts.

Still, I wanted to do the best I could for this contest, because you can win gift cards for books: so yay, free books. I have been writing a lot the past year so my first step was to make a selection of my best pieces. This was already a challenge because I write quite personal and it can be hard to recognize what is good if you are very emotionally invested in a text. So I made three different selections and I send them to some friends, asking them for some feedback. This was very helpful, but in a different way than I expected. I expected them to have a certain amount of consensus on what was good and what wasn’t. On the contrary, their opinions were as divided as possible. If one of them liked a poem, the other didn’t, and this disagreement even continued within the poems themselves: one liked the opening but hated the ending while the other reacted that he didn’t feel anything while reading the first lines, but the last ones, those were gold! So I didn’t get a straight answer on what was good and what wasn’t, but I did get a lot of useful feedback. Their disagreement also made sure that I wouldn’t depend too much on their opinion: with both sides being represented, I got to choose what felt good to me instead of pleasing my friends. I could not have gotten a better reaction.

With the feedback, and a better understanding of my stronger and weaker points, I had to start rewriting. I have a love/hate relationship with rewriting. On the one hand, it always makes me feel like a serious writer, getting the best out of my texts, really struggling and suffering for my art, surrounded by notes and books. On the other hand, when writing as personal as I do, it can be hard to, well, have to kill your darlings. I’m emotionally invested in these texts and admitting that a certain line might feel good to me but isn’t really poetically strong can be hard (and take some time, and a lot of rereading). Eventually, I did feel like my poems improved a lot, and when I submitted my selection I felt sure this was the best I could do. Of course, this only lasted until about one day after the deadline.

There’s a month of waiting for me between the deadline and the announcement of the winners of the first round. And I understand the jury will need time to read everything and decide who’s the best. The problem is, I follow this contest on social media, and their meeting where they decided who will win was last week. So they already know and I still have to wait two weeks. I try not to think about it too much, but it’s so exiting! Plus, if I win this first round, I have only a few weeks to prepare my text for the finale. This kind of forces me to be prepared to win, because with so little time to rewrite my texts, I need to already have a decent selection ready.

But first, it’s time for a small vacation! I’m posting this from a hostel in Edinburgh, where I am for a ten day visit to Scotland. So in the next few weeks you can expect some posts on Scotland!

One thought on “Putting your writing out there

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