Winning and losing as an artist.
August 15, 2019
One thing of the many things I like about art is it’s not about winning or losing, but literally HOW you play the game (or do your art) (I know it’s a stretch; stick with me here).
There are contests and awards of all kinds but I don’t think it’s all about the thrill of victory. It think it’s an incentive to get your work out there. My mom had hundreds of ribbons and awards from her many years as an artist entering her work in art shows around the South Plains. But I never once heard her say, “I’m gonna go kick so-and-so’s butt in the Art Show.” Okay, maybe she said that about her nemesis, haha. But it wasn’t about the competition for her. It was about being recognized for her work. And she was not afraid to put it out there. Until we have created something, and done our best, and worked on it and worked on it and polished it and looked at it from all directions and done what we needed to do to get it ready (formatting? framing? arranging and rearranging? the perpetual polish, polish, polish?), we don’t realize the radical bravery it takes to put it out there and be judged by your peers and strangers.
I wish I had appreciated her beautiful bravery more. Y’all, go hug your moms.
So I obviously don’t think putting your art out there is about winning (shows or contests or a publisher or a grant). I think it’s the recognition that someone likes your work. That you are recognized for the heart and soul you put into it. You don’t win or lose with art: you do the work.
Because–full disclosure–I didn’t “win” the RMFW Novelrama I participated in, at least not as far as meeting the word count. The goal was 25,000 words, averaging 6,250 a day for four days. I didn’t think I was going to make that word count because I haven’t drafted for over a year (and even on my best days, the best I’ve done was around 5K a day).
Was I a loser because I didn’t get the 25K?
- I wrote 12,711 words, just over halfway to the goal. That’s about 50 pages of a book.
- I worked at all different times of the day, not just first thing in the morning when it was cool and quiet and my brain is fresh. I worked late on a Saturday night. On an afternoon when I was not feeling great. In spite of the fact that I was having an AC crisis (though, admittedly, that cratered me for most of a day and exhausted me for much of the next) (confirming that my resilience to adversity still needs a little work but oh, well, it’s my brand, haha).
- I was at my desk, every day, working on a new project, not just picking apart one that I have been working on for over five years now.
- I made some real progress on said new project. Creating a new character I love. The characters are moving toward the goal.
- I actually wrote over 3K a day on average. If I keep that up, this book will be finished by my birthday!
- I met some other writers, saw that even the most professional and experienced of them have the same problems I do, and was encouraged by that. Not that they were having problems, haha, but that we’re all in this together. Not winners and losers but all just doing our work.
I don’t know. What do you think? Did I lose?
Is that’s what it’s about: the big win? Beating the other guy? Or is it just doing the work, doing the best that you can, and doing it over and over until it touches someone’s heart?
(Originally written for our Creative Encouragement FB group)