67 points

While we’re talking about contests, I’ll tell you my secret:

In 2005, I submitted the opening pages of a novel to a manuscript contest. The judge praised the strengths, noted the weaknesses, and awarded me a score of 85.

In 2006, I submitted the very same pages to the very same manuscript contest. The judge praised nothing and awarded me a score of 18.

The 67 points between high and low scores taught me a valuable lesson.

Judging is subjective. What one judge likes, another hates. Not everyone loves my work as much as I think they should. Or as much as I do. I’m competing with a large pool of writers who have talent, skill, and experience.

If I allow one rejection to discourage me, I might as well quit right now.

I don’t want to quit.

I won’t pretend I was thrilled with the second score or with the judge’s comments. I won’t pretend I didn’t rampage around the house telling husband and cats exactly what I thought. I won’t pretend I was surprised when husband and cats announced they needed their beauty sleep and high-tailed it up the stairs.

But by the next day I’d regained my equilibrium. One contest, one critique sheet, one manuscript.

I went to the literature. I reread Ralph Keyes’s The Writer’s Book of Hope, and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and Elizabeth Berg’s Escaping into the Open.

Then I sat down at the computer, and opened a file, and began to write.