Monday, Michelle talked about the pain of rejection, and it got me thinking: first, rejection sucks. It happens, and most of the time, it sucks. Period.
But on the other hand, all of that rejection make any small victory feel so much better! Over the course of three novels and several short stories, I've racked up almost two hundred rejections. I'm getting better with each project, and I know of a couple of authors who are creeping toward a thousand, so I know my numbers aren't abnormal.
With that being said, Michelle and I entered the same contest this year. I entered the same book last year, too, and scored similarly to Michelle's submission this summer. But this year, my book scored WAY better than last year's version. I know there are many reasons why that could be the case, but overall, the book is better. I guarantee I wouldn't have scored so much higher if I hadn't improved the book over the past twelve months.
This was a hug success for me. Last year, I didn't break the minimum score to be considered a finalist. While winning is always the point of entering a contest (and if you're doing it for any other reason, check out Gusto Dave's post over at Chiseled in Rock), my target was actually to break the finalist point threshold. I did it! I need 130 points, and I got 137 (out of 160).
This is a success because, even though there were AT LEAST five other authors who did better than I did (they're the finalists), I accomplished a goal. No, I didn't win. But I did well enough to feel good about my accomplishment.
Why the sting of success, then?
I feel bad for my fellow writer. She worked hard on that book. It's really well-written. And while the judging notes on her pages make a lot of sense, I had high expectations for her work. I mean, it's really good!
I know it's absurd for me to downplay my own achievement to avoid reminding other people of their struggles, but both of my co-hosts are also my friends. I mean, I don't feel bad about myself because Emily got into an anthology. I shouldn't expect them to feel bad about my positive feedback. But rejection sucks. And it's easier to handle rejection (in my experience) when someone's going through the same thing at the same time for similar reasons.
The overall point I'm trying to make is: don't downplay your own success. But be sensitive to other people, too. Enjoy your progress. Don't be arrogant and throw it anyone's face.
And if you disagree, let me know in the comments.