„I won! I won! I won!” That was me shouting for all the world to hear one Spring morning. What did I win? Well, at the moment, my confetti outburst was for a pack of meat. But in hindsight, I „won” something even better that day.
How I brought home the bacon
A few months ago, after having our second child, I really felt the need to work, get creative again, help the family budget. I had this hunger to just do something, kind of for myself, for my family, heck, for the world; it lingered.
One mundane day, as I was mindlessly scrolling, I came upon… a writing contest. It was posted by an eco-organic, bio or what-you-might-call-it meat producer. All you had to do was creatively share your favorite recipe for carnivores in the comments (and like the page, the post, of course) and you could win a huge box of 1st grade quality all kinds of frozen meats of your choice! I mean… free food?! Meat?! In this economy?!
Hence, this lioness put on her wordsmith’s armor and went to the hunt!
For a week I was pondering on the perfect recipe to use. It had to show a side of meat you did not expect. This couldn’t be any old recipe. I saw people writing about chicken noodle soup - seriously? Can we please add a dash of showmanship? The meat people would like to be entertained!
And so I came up with…
Wait, wait, wait - not just any pizza. I mean the red river of meat overflowing and swallowing me whole Chicago Deep Dish Pizza!
Ohhh yessss. As I have spent half of my life in Chicago, this greasy, gut-destroying guilty pleasure is very dear to my heart.
So to the word pot I went. Oh, it was dramatic. It was mouthwatering. It was so much fun!
I sent in my recipe, dressed in ribbons and ruffles. A few days of waiting and…
I won! I seriously won the huge package of meat! I literally brought home the bacon!
And with my writing, too!
Can you feel the pride? Can you feel the joy? (I’m getting emotional.)
First I couldn’t add all that up in my head. Then I felt I needed… more. Since this worked once, maybe I can make it work again?
Let's get to writing and win some goodies!
Searching for contests, writing poems, paragraphs, super-short stories, phrases - anything and everything - these became my weekly tasks. And I ended up winning quite a number of times and enjoying good discounts, planners and pens, clothes, movie tickets, hobby-type courses and restaurant gift cards… I mean, we ate delicious meals we would have never splurged on, I got some dreamy dresses, I took a course… all because of my writing.
So that was just peachy for me, but why am I writing about this to you?
Because that meat contest was a turning point if I ever saw one.
6 lessons I learned from online contests
Reassured that I can write something that I and others will like, I started to believe in myself again.
Following the trail of happiness that came from writing short entries, I’ve decided to set my compass to one direction: keep on writing.
I never imagined that winning meat would lead me here. Yet, I see the plethora of good things that happened because I participated in all those silly contests, one of them being that today I am blogging here at the Plottery!
What is more, in analyzing the creative process of coming up with a text for an entry, I realized that it made me a better writer in multiple ways:
- Time organization: „I’ve got no time to write” was a lie I believed for too long. The online contests made me find the time and prioritize the writing task. Five minutes here, twenty there… I learned to waste less.
- Editing: with a limited word count, I learned to keep only what is crucial. Redundancy, endless descriptions, prosaic unraveling of events - these do not have a place in good literature and online contests.
- Focus: these marketing people have dozens, if not hundreds of entries to read. If I drifted away in the first sentence by setting the scene too long, I was out immediately. By the way, we have a post about immersing the reader here.
- Creativity challenge: ever thought of a single sentence that would never be spoken by a Fall-obsessed-girl? Or started a thriller short story with the main subject being a popular soft drink? These companies want you to think about their product while you’re writing and you can use the challenge. It was entertaining and useful for me to think outside of the box.
- Learn to let go: although I did win a good amount of times, I also lost many more. What that taught me was to not take loss to heart. I might have worked hard on an entry, but someone else’s was just better. And that was fine. The next contest was always right around the corner.
- The short-term results got me excited: As soon as I sent one entry, I was writing or looking for another opportunity. Yeah, I did it to get something. But the key part is that I was practicing more.
All this might be taken as an invitation to try yourself at online writing challenges. If so, great! As I said above, they do have numerous upsides.
But if that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, here is what I do hope my story will be for you:
An invitation to get creative.
Are you feeding yourself too many excuses lately?
Look around. Perhaps there are opportunities to free your creativity, but you are your own Pharaoh?
The hard truth is that the only thing standing between you and writing is you.
If an extra push is necessary to get started, so what?
I needed a push, a prize, a motivator to get back to something I love and I’m not embarrassed to say it. That’s because whatever was the initial reason to write, the result is that I am back. Now I write regularly, though fewer contests and more blogs, articles, short stories and poetry.
But the sweetest thing is this: I’m polishing my writing skills.
ALSO: Word-vomit Techniques
We often forget that, don’t we? The polishing of our skills part. We want to just get to the main event, right? Complete that novel. Get published. Earn cash. Eat bacon. (Or tofu.)
The thing is, anytime you write something, you gain the skills and tools necessary not only to write your novel, but to write it well. And that is something worth working for.
If there are no opportunities, create one.
This is me giving you that push.
I believe in you, Writer.
One last thought. You see, Writer, the funny thing is, I try my luck at random drawings as well, but I never win those. Only the ones where I have to submit a piece of writing bear fruit for me. Coincidence or not, it does make me feel a little magical… ;)
M. B. Auburn
Written for The Plottery
M.B. Auburn: millennial wife and mom of 2, dancing her way through her 30s and finally bravely claiming the title: Writer.