Wednesday, I’m going to lose another contest, one that I really, seriously care about.
Over the weekend, I lost six. In one night. Actually, I lost them when I wrote my stories (and novel chapters) not well enough to be winners, but I didn’t find out about it until Saturday. That’s when the winners were announced. Eighteen of them. I wasn’t one of the eighteen.
I won’t be one of the one hundred twenty-five that win this contest, either. There were hopeful signs early, but they did not mature. I’m confident now that Wednesday will bring another day of nothing, so I’m writing this in an attempt to make sense of it, and to get down on paper what the significance is.
What losing is not:
- A message from the universe that I’m not a valuable human being.
- A definitive judgment on the quality of my work.
- An erasure of that general way forward toward the things I want.
What losing is:
- An indication that I’m not as good as I need to be.
- A message from the universe that this is possibly not the way I should be going.
- A subjective judgment on the quality of my work. Subjectively, it isn’t good enough.
- An erasure of the specific way forward toward the thing I want. It’s the death of Plan A, at least, and possibly Plans M through X, depending on where I am.
- The End of the World.
No, really, it is. I keep hearing (and those of who believe they are going to win are the loudest about it) that losing isn’t the end of the world, it’s not the death of anything, and we shouldn’t read anything into the fact that we are not Chosen.
This is false. Every word of that is false. There was a world in which we were winners, in which I was a winner, in which that specific victory led to someone not-genetically-tied-to-me reading and appreciating and being moved by something I created–and paying me for it–which is roughly the greatest thing that can exist. That world is dead. Losing is the end of that world. This world, the one in which we are not as successful as we wanted to be, absolutely continues. Personally, I don’t like this one as well as I imagine I’d like the other one. But that one is dead. Not to be sad about that is incomprehensible to me.
There are other worlds. Every minute of every day, we create new possibilities, new ideas, new worlds and universes we might inhabit. In this world, we may ultimately end up MORE successful than we would have been in the other one. That happens all the time, where the fantasy we create in our head is excelled by the reality we make with our sweat and blood. It’s happened to me more times than I can count.
I still weep for that other world. I still feel the death of it. I felt it half a dozen times this weekend, and I’m already getting out the sackcloth for this one.
No, I won’t read this series of defeats as “there is no universe in which I win”, but strictly from a mathematics standpoint, the truth is that there might not be. For most of us in this contest, the statistics tell me, that is the truth. Most of us never will. For some, that world will end on Wednesday, the one where they aren’t winners. No matter what the jolly chatter says, that’s a big deal. Everyone that entered the contest would give a great deal–did give a great deal–to kill this world dead, that that one might live.
I agree that it is dangerous to read too much into a single contest (or even into a whole series of them). I wish to point out that there’s another danger: that of reading too little. Losing means something. If it didn’t, why would we try so hard to win?
There will be a next time (the world doesn’t exist where I don’t enter other contests). This won’t be the last time I lose, either. There have been wins, too, so there is no world in which I never win anything. It’s a comfort–cold and small in weeks like this, but a comfort nonetheless.
UPDATE: I was right. I didn’t win.