At the end of last week I found out I was shortlisted for the Writer’s Union of Canada’s Short Prose Competition. I think what impressed me most was that my story passed 50 hands to make it as a finalist among 12 others. (I eagerly await jury’s comments that are to be coming.)

On Sunday my father announced that he had just been awarded his third dan! I was very excited for him. He passed his second dan in 1999. What dedication, I thought. The years of training!

Of course this lead me to thinking about writing, and how many years it can take before success is achieved (and for each of us this is a different definition.) It is a trade, a craft that must be learned, and most of us writers seem to do it on our own, without any teachers. I have been using books on the craft, recently the internet, and more recently a writer’s group. I knowthat it is a slow learning process, yet I still think it should be quicker.

Needing some kind of encouragement along the way, I decided to begin submitting short stories. Literally journals require a lot of time and investigation, so I decided to pick one or two competitions to enter each year. I never thought I would win anything, I was certain it would take years, but having a deadline and submitting something felt good anyway. I was shocked when that same year, two years, ago I submitted to two competitions, and won a second place award for a Quebec competition. Last year I was long listed for a Canada-wide competition, and this year I am short listed. I see my progress, and it is very encouraging. Does it make a difference in the end, these designations and awards? No, not really. But, to me they are little hurdles that mark my passage.

Now, as I begin this week having completed my novel goals on time and entering phase 3: analysis (while meeting a deadline for an article), I try to think of my progress, hoping to still my racing heart. I realized this morning as I drove home that I have performance anxiety when I think of tackling my novel. Will I be able to do it? Will I see all its flaws? I know once my work begins I disappear into it, forgetting about my anxieties, my fears of not performing well enough.

How do you congratulate yourself in this long road? How do you, as a writer, keep yourself rewarded?

35 thoughts on “Momentum

  1. Congratulations, Jennifer!!!

    And interesting question–I don’t think I celebrate the victories other than enjoying the wonderful feeling they give me. Unless it counts that I’ve put all my nice rejections in a notebook, where I can read them if I’m having a hard day.

    I like your new format, by the way.

  2. Congratulations, Jennifer! Good luck in the finals.

    I have no idea what a dan is, but judging from the photo, is it a Karate degree?

    Well, I haven’t really had anything to celebrate yet on my writing road. I’ve completed a few things, but I don’t know whether they’re any good. Just completion doesn’t seem a reason to reward myself. Though, considering the number of unfinished projects I have, maybe completing something should be rewarded. 🙂

    1. Yes, Linda, it’s after attaining a black belt you can work towards a dan.

      I think that a lot of work goes into each project we complete (and then complete again, and again). Sometimes just acknowlding ourselves and our effort is reward!

  3. Great news. I hope for good news in the finals.

    I feel badly that I haven’t submitted anything to a magazine in a year. It feels good to me just to know I did. But there are so many magazines, both in print and online that I don’t know where to start.

    Actually, I think it does make a difference the designations and awards. They are publishing credits. Valuable, valuable publishing credits.

    1. Oh, I should have mentioned that the winner was announced at the same as the short list. I never even knew there was a possibility of winning – perhaps better this way.

      I know, Tricia, that submitting is a huge process, and it is the reason I have hardly done it at all. I submitted one story to a couple of lit journals last year and I was lucky it got picked up, but I have not since, although I am forever wanting to…I am just too greedy with my time!

  4. I’ve not often celebrated things, though I do mark little stepping stones on my journey with blog posts. I like to reflect on my growth as a writer: it makes me feel good about where I’m at, and where I’m heading as well.
    When I got my first story accepted recently I bought myself a bottle of sparkling grape juice (it would have been proper bubbly if not for the baby on board! lol) and enjoyed that with my husband.
    Good luck with the competition 🙂

    1. Thanks lawrence, and good luck with your proofreading!

      (I am horrible at that element of writing, and perhaps that is why I greatly dislike the proofreading. I usually get a reader to proof for me.)

  5. Congratulations! That’s great news. It must be nice see your work paying off and to receive feedback as to how you are progressing as a writer (or martial artist, for that matter). Enjoy this one and all the ones that are sure to come!

    1. Thanks, Jonathan!

      I trained with my father for years as an adult – I made it to brown belt (there are three browns in our style), but stopped when I was six months pregnant with my first. I miss it and hope to get back in to it after this little one is born. It’s great discipline too – I’m sure it spills over into the discipline needed for writing.

  6. Nurturing ourselves as writers and sustaining our writing activities are two very difficult things to do in a silo. Joining writing groups, connecting with other writers online, entering competitions – all of that helps us stay connected so we don’t go crazy and can keep tackling our big projects. I think my next stop should probably be entering some of my short fiction in contests like you have done because I am only a quarter of the way through the first draft of my novel and by god, I WILL sustain myself.


    1. Hi Rebecca- ” I WILL sustain myself” – amazing to hear you say that. It took me quite some time before I realized I would have to do that. But, writing, as everything, has it’s ups and downs, and it is WORK, as much as I cannot imagine a life where I do not write. It is solitary, and it is a path that we make for ourselves rather than following a premade one – I think it is important to recognize and reward ourselves in this.

  7. I reward myself as a writer in certain ephemeral ways. At the end of an evening, if my back is sore from leaning too far into my computer monitor and my eyes are blurry, I know I’ve been at it intensely. When Mongo, the black cat, is on my desk and I’m not as concerned about him trampling on papers then I know i was more interested in story than I was about pampering a cat.

    When I read a favorite author and think “I wish I could do THAT” then I realize that old stand-bys still have the ability to captivate and i remeber WHY I wanted to be a writer.

    There is such a thing as too much revision, too much learning, too many exercises. I’m reminded of the motto of the 4-H club: We learn to do by doing.

    To all you writers, keep doing.

    1. Hi Tikiman, Oh yes, I agree fully. It is possible to overkill a piece, and also to get lost in the expectations of others (even just by trying to imitate another style.) We have to find our own voice, and I think once we do this it becomes easier to know when a piece is completed.
      Reading is for me too a reward 🙂

  8. Congratulations Jennifer! That must be an amazing feeling. I suspect you have the impetus to accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourself. To answer your question about rewarding myself, I have no real answer. I’ve never really rewarded myself because I’ve yet to accomplish my personal goals. That means I’m still in pursuit of the elusive dream.

    1. Thanks, Vanyieck! It’s all about that discipline…

      I think it is equally, if not more important, to reward ourselves before accomplishing our personal goals. It is the little steps along the way, writing every day even when we would rather sleep (in my case:) ), or completing a difficult edit, etc. By doing so we motivate ourselves to go forward. There is no painting to hang up, for others to pass and say wow, you’ve improved. It’s all internal (for now).

  9. Congrats! How awesome. That’s an avenue I had never thought of before. Do you have a list of places to enter contests maybe? I’d like to consider that option.

    Also, if you don’t mind my asking, can you maybe point me in the right direction to join a writing group?

    Celebrating? I generally brag all over the place and get my family to read it and tell me how awesome I am. LOL

    1. HI Duchess, nice to see you back!
      Can I ask you if you are Canadian? I have some info about Canadian competitions if that would help any…
      As for the writing group – that was a tough one. It took quite some time but I did find one. Really, I just put my feelers out, asking everyone I knew involved in the writing community. Finally, a librarian at my local library had been participating in one for 2 years, they read some of my stuff, and so it went. I wish you all the luck finding one that’s right for you!

      1. Jennifer thank you so much for looking into this. To answer your question, yes I am a proud Canadian (Go Canada Go!) I’d love to see that list 🙂
        Thank you for you well wishes!

      2. Hi Duchess, sorry for the late response.
        The best resource I ever came accross was The Canadian Writer’s Contest Calendar: It has everything listed and saves you all the leg work – I strongly recommend it.

        Otherwise, I know all the journals have yearly contests, you just have to check in on their websites for the dates. (Grain, Malahat, etc.). The list really is endless, and so time consuming, that’s why I recommend the above. (No affilitation, he he.) Hope it helps somewhat!

  10. Congratulations, Jennifer! Another beautiful post (as always). I left a thank you post for my award over at my blog. You have a great evening and I look forward to hearing about your next accomplishment!


  11. Congratulations on the Awards! (I’m over here from Teresa’s place)

    When a reader contacts me and tells me how much he/she enjoyed my book, that feels like a pretty durn good “congratulation” — in this business, we should take all the moments of joy we can, for it can be tough sometimes!

    1. Hi Kat! Thanks for coming on over on lovely Teresa’s suggestion!
      I cannot really imagine the feeling of having a stranger (hence not friend, family, fellow writer) read and enjoy my book. I have had strangers comment on my shorts and articles, but it is not the same – I don’t have the same kind of attachment to them, nor the same amount of years and tears put into them. I hope to experience it one day.

  12. Dear Jennifer,

    Wow and congratulations! That is wonderful news.

    I write and submit short fiction for reasons similar to yours–and it _is_ exciting to see progress in a measurable way.

    Happy writing/editing today,

    p.s. I meant to respond to your last post–your new blog theme is very nice! (And I want to add, “RATS! You beat me to it . . . I was, maybe still am, thinking of switching to Vigilance too . . . 😉

      1. I’ve fallen behind in my goals with my novel this month too–something must be going around. 😉 It’ll take me more than the weekend to catch up though, so I’m aiming to have a very industrious March.

      2. Hope the catch up goes smooth, Ev. I spend a full day on the weekend cathing up – about 7 or 8 hours, which for me is nearly a full week! The kids went on an adventure with grandma, and I worked 🙂 Good luck!

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