Friday, November 25, 2011

Use Competition to Boost Your Writing

This Saturday is the big rivalry football game for my alma mater, USC, versus UCLA. Amidst the playful trash-talking and revelrous build-up to the big game, I have been thinking about how rivalry and competition are a part of our lives in many ways, not just in the realm of sports.

In writing, for example, contests are forms of competition. Perhaps there is a "big game" of a contest that you enter every year, hoping to win the big prize. Or perhaps there is a writer you admire and consider a rival of sorts. While the green-eyed monster of jealousy is never something to court-- it can be paralyzing to your creativity and toxic to your happiness-- there are ways to use rivalry and competition as good motivators to get your writing in gear and your butt in the writing chair. Here are some ideas:
  • Pair up with a writing friend and use each other to make headway on your goals. Perhaps you want to finally hammer out an outline for your novel, or send out more queries, or simply get more words on the page. Pick a goal and turn it into a competition with your friend. Whoever writes more words, sends out more queries, etc., is the winner for the week; the loser buys the winner lunch or coffee at your next get-together.  
  • What writers do you admire? Search out their work. Read it; study it; learn from it. What do they do to create such compelling characters? How do they build such intricate and gripping plots? How does their writing build from words to sentences to paragraphs on the line level? 
  • Even better, look up the websites of writers you admire and find their contact information. Send them a direct email or an old-fashioned letter in care of their publisher. Tell them what you admire about their work. Strike up a conversation and build a relationship. Get involved in the writing community!
  • Annual competitions are great ways to mark your own progress. Perhaps you enter the same big-prize writing competition every year and have not won (yet!) ... You don't need to depend on a panel of judges to get something out of the contest. Use it as a catalyst to reflect on your writing and how your work has grown and changed in the last year. Are you pushing yourself? Are you putting in the time you want to be putting in? What goals can you set for yourself to focus on until the next contest comes around?
Rivalry week is always fun, and you can use competition as a positive source of motivation in your writing life. But when it comes down to it, remember that the only person you should really be in competition with is yourself!

Happy writing -- and, this Saturday, FIGHT ON TROJANS! Beat the Bruins! :)


Virginia S Grenier said...

Great post and I'm a USC fan as well. Shared this in my newsletter and on my social sites.

Dallas said...

Thanks Virginia! :) I really appreciate it!