Are you a good loser?

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
Post Reply
emptyrefrigerator
Posts: 7
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 7:19 pm
Contact:

Are you a good loser?

Post by emptyrefrigerator » January 15th, 2010, 9:03 am

This week on American Idol, one contestant erupted into spectacular rage.

“I’m not going to say you have a terrible voice,” said a judge - which, of course, the contestant took to mean, “You have a terrible voice.” His face looked like the frozen, anguished half of a comedy / tragedy drama mask. The worst part was that as the judges continued speaking, he kept interrupting them to sing. He just couldn’t stop. Eventually, security guards escorted him offstage as he sputtered profanity and insults.

I could relate to him. I felt his pain, even as I cringed and covered my face.

We all have those feelings, don’t we? The fury and sense of injustice, the conviction that the judges are biased and blind? Or maybe not. Maybe only some of us have those feelings, and the rest of us handle losing with sheepish grace. If that’s the case, then I fall into the former group.

American Idol is, of course, the most ego-brutalizing of contests. I can’t imagine how bad it is for the ones who don’t make it - the judges sitting pretty behind their table, holding all the power; the public humiliation; the winners running around in hysterical euphoria while you slink out the door, carrying the mantle of your loserhood. But really, all contests that judge you on merit are – if you lose – difficult.

Which is why I hate, and love, writing contests. Love them because of the dream (maybe I’ll win! Maybe I’ll get a query critique! Or a manuscript critique! Or a book deal!). Hate them because of the terrible, ugly, shameful thoughts that I have when I lose. I have them all. The soul-eating envy. The bitterness, the sense of being misunderstood. The thought that the judges can’t see truth. And then, the shame when I read the winning entries, the desolate despair – I’ll never be as good as them, not in a million years.

So just don’t enter, you may be thinking. But. I need the contests. Losing is a skill - an essential one for query-sending writers - and I need to get better at it. In fact, after having entered a handful of contests, I can already feel it happening. I mind the losing less now. My skin is getting thicker.

Some of the American Idol contestants have excellent "losing skills." I’m not talking about the ones with the wooden faces who look like they're going to bite your head off as they snap,”I’m fine” – I’m talking about the ones who accept the verdict with humility and confidence. How do they do that? I imagine them walking out the hotel lobby door to go practice some more. Which is, of course, the key to getting through it.

One day, I'll get there. How about you?
Last edited by emptyrefrigerator on January 15th, 2010, 10:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

DeadSchool
Posts: 3
Joined: January 15th, 2010, 9:39 am
Contact:

Re: Are you a good loser?

Post by DeadSchool » January 15th, 2010, 9:42 am

coolio!

matildamcc
Posts: 22
Joined: January 12th, 2010, 3:41 pm
Contact:

Re: Are you a good loser?

Post by matildamcc » January 15th, 2010, 10:59 am

Very true. Once I almost didn't enter a contest because of self-doubt and then won it (to my extreme shock). But sometimes it's fun to be a cheerleader and not worry about winning or losing. As my piano teacher says, the world needs audience members as well as performers. I decided not to enter this contest--I'm enjoying reading the entries without experiencing any contangst (contest angst)!

emptyrefrigerator
Posts: 7
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 7:19 pm
Contact:

Re: Are you a good loser?

Post by emptyrefrigerator » January 15th, 2010, 4:13 pm

DeadSchool and Matildamacc, Thank you for your comments. And M - did you coin the word contangst? Love it. ER

User avatar
marilyn peake
Posts: 304
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 4:29 pm
Contact:

Re: Are you a good loser?

Post by marilyn peake » January 17th, 2010, 1:31 pm

Awesome topic. Definitely hits close to home. A few years ago, if a writer lost a contest, they could actually write to the people who ran the contest and ask if the judges had left any comments. To my complete and utter amazement, judges’ comments were politely sent to me and I discovered that the comments were so good, I then asked to use them on my website and received permission to do so. In one case, the contest was run by a small publishing house and the judges recommended that the publisher consider my work for publication. I now have many books published by that publisher. I also found the negative comments helpful and used them to improve my work. We live in a very different world now, where publishing people are usually too busy to supply any type of feedback which makes it much harder not to despair over losing. Losing without getting feedback is a writers’ worst enemy because it makes it harder to improve. There are still many other places to get feedback, though, and it’s definitely worth turning to the best of them.
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

rose
Posts: 118
Joined: December 6th, 2009, 2:23 pm
Contact:

Re: Are you a good loser?

Post by rose » January 17th, 2010, 1:57 pm

Helpful, as always, Marilyn.

Emptyrefrigerator, good on you for persisting in the desensitization process. It is tremendously freeing when you get to the other side.

rose
Follow my work at Smashwords:

Riders on the Rez http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/35697
The Good-Bye Man

Krista G.
Posts: 192
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 4:47 pm
Contact:

Re: Are you a good loser?

Post by Krista G. » January 18th, 2010, 10:20 am

I saw that guy, too, emptyrefrigerator. And the thing was, the judges weren't saying he was bad, just that he wasn't ready. My writer brain was thinking - and I made this comment to my husband, which, since he's been down in the query trenches with me, he completely understood - "They're passing on this one, but they're requesting future work. Just calm the heck down! That's a good thing!"

Too bad he didn't get it.
Author of THE REGENERATED MAN (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, Winter 2015)
Represented by Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary
www.motherwrite.blogspot.com

emptyrefrigerator
Posts: 7
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 7:19 pm
Contact:

Re: Are you a good loser?

Post by emptyrefrigerator » January 18th, 2010, 8:51 pm

Marilyn, thanks for your insights. Would that we now lived in a time where it was easy to get judges' feedback. Rose - Wow, sounds like you made it to the other side. That gives me hope. Krista, I wonder if every writer who saw that guy had the same analogy in their brains. Maybe he got it later, after the emotionalism died down....

User avatar
Seadhlinn
Posts: 18
Joined: December 10th, 2009, 6:10 pm
Location: Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
Contact:

Re: Are you a good loser?

Post by Seadhlinn » February 4th, 2010, 1:24 am

Weirdly, I respond better to specific criticism, probably because I'm used to having my scientific writing ripped. Point out a specific problem with something I've done, and I'll fix it.
Embarrassingly, form rejections freak me out. My brain goes into overdrive trying to figure it out (think "teenage-girl-with-crush level of over-analysis"). I think: "Did my query letter suck? Did my writing suck? Am I just another of the nutters Nathan keeps talking about? WHERE DID I GO WRONG???".
Obviously, the rational part of me knows there is no other way for agents to reasonably respond to the large number of queries... but still. I get frustrated.

User avatar
christi
Posts: 166
Joined: January 31st, 2010, 3:54 pm
Location: Texas
Contact:

Re: Are you a good loser?

Post by christi » February 4th, 2010, 9:06 pm

Well, I guess I'll find out soon :-) I already got Nathan's rejection, and I actually expected it. I sent him a horribly query letter that you good people have helped me revise amazingly, but I let that opportunity pass me by with Nathan. The truth is, he's the cream of the crop. Getting him is like winning the lottery, in my opinion. My luck's not that good. I have confidence in my story and my writing, and I know that someday, somehow I'll finally make it. I don't expect fame and fortune, so I will not be crushed by rejection letters. Right now, I'm waiting on Query Shark (Janet) to review my query for a third time, and maybe she'll rip me to shreds and maybe she'll say I've got a good query. The best case scenario is that she asks for pages, but again - I don't expect that. It'd be nice, but I'm pretty much a mellow soul at heart. I won't let it get me down when rejection letters come in. I'll just plod along as usual.
Would you sign my story for a Klondike bar?

http://christigoddard.blogspot.com/

Kaitlyne
Posts: 103
Joined: December 6th, 2009, 7:41 am
Contact:

Re: Are you a good loser?

Post by Kaitlyne » February 5th, 2010, 9:36 pm

I've always been a pretty good loser. Maybe that's in part because I don't often expect to win (I did once, and so didn't see that coming). Sometimes I think it would be cool to win, but generally I doubt I'd be the very best out there. And contests aren't all that big of a deal. I mean, like you said it would be nice, but the odds are more difficult sometimes than even finding an agent might be (depending on the contest and the competition). I get discouraged sometimes by rejections, but I even take those in stride and just send out a new query, which I actually tend to enjoy. I'm weird like that! Even when I know it's almost a guaranteed "no" I enjoy sending it out. Anyway, I do sometimes get a tad upset when I see people around me getting tons of requests or offers and I wish that I was getting the same response. Two things help me. One is to congratulate those people. It gives me a good feeling, and I truly mean it. I'm really glad they're succeeding, and one of these days I'll get there, too. So when I decide to be happy for someone instead of jealous, all those negative feelings go away. The second is to work on my new story, which I'm only about 15k into, but I can already tell even based on the first draft that it's going to be a shoe-in. I'm not trying to be conceited. I think what I'm currently submitting is close, I've gotten some good responses, but I knew it was going to be a long-shot from the moment I started submitting because of the word count alone (along with a couple of other unusual things I've done with it). The next one has a much better chance and it has a very fun voice and a lot of humor, so aside from being a blast to write, I just feel really good about it. I focus on that, and it helps a lot. :)

User avatar
Simpatico
Posts: 18
Joined: February 17th, 2010, 12:27 am
Contact:

Re: Are you a good loser?

Post by Simpatico » February 17th, 2010, 1:19 am

I'm not a sore loser, but neither am I apathetic about it either.

I suppose I might be somewhat strange in that I don't really feel too affected by what others think (which can be frustrating for some people - like my mother! :D) Usually my fiercest judge is myself and that's usually who I compete against - my own expectations.

If I lose, yet know I did my best, I'm fine. I'm fully aware that there are some people in this world much better than I at many things and if someone legitimately beats me, I have no problem with it. I just take mental notes and then try to improve my game.

If I lose and feel I didn't do my best or messed up somewhere, then I'll become angry - but with myself. I'll go through the usual pain of falling short in my own eyes (and in front of others) and then after a while, I'll rebuild and try again - better, harder and more determined.

User avatar
shadow
Posts: 302
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 5:06 pm
Location: The moon
Contact:

Re: Are you a good loser?

Post by shadow » February 17th, 2010, 1:53 pm

Do I like to lose? No I am very competitive but when I (lets just say would) get a rejection (I didn't get any yet because I didn't query yet lol) I would get over it. Life goes on, and sometime you can think of things lik they are meant to happen. Are they not? I am confusing myself now.
All things writing, visit my blog http://arielemerald.blogspot.com/

ImageImageImageImage

Nick
Posts: 236
Joined: December 10th, 2009, 5:59 pm
Location: Pennsylvania
Contact:

Re: Are you a good loser?

Post by Nick » February 17th, 2010, 2:52 pm

I'm sort of a spiteful loser. I don't really spout vitriol but...One rejection compels me to patch up things and send it out to three more. I'm kind of like an angry Hydra, come to think on it. Chop one head off, and more just grow back. Bigger, smarter heads, who still inevitably get sliced off, but then more, smarter heads just come back again and I'm stopping the analogy here before we're here all day.

victoria
Posts: 19
Joined: February 16th, 2010, 12:38 am
Location: Australia
Contact:

Re: Are you a good loser?

Post by victoria » February 18th, 2010, 5:50 am

Not when it comes to scrabble
http://victoriapantazis.blogspot.com
Sharing my research on how teens read and applying it to the process of writing.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 5 guests