Sometimes the work of other writers inspires me. Take, for example, Andrew Sean Greer. I recently read his short story “It’s a Summer Day” in the June 19, 2017 issue of The New Yorker (yes, I do tend to get behind on my magazine subscriptions). The story is about a writer who attends a literary awards ceremony; he is a nominee for the prize. For extra credit, you can read the story here:
There’s also an interview with Greer. He comments on awards in general:
Greer states that prizes evolve to serve themselves. Writers crave prizes, but then what? We want to go on writing works we are proud of, something a prize will not guarantee. And what if your work isn’t acknowledged with an award? Seethe, seethe, seethe!!!
This is similar to my own outlook and experience regarding awards. Did you know I’m a prize-winning poet? Seriously. I have the certificate to prove it- -a good thing, since I’m always hard up for blog artwork. The contest was sponsored by From the Asylum. No, I am not kidding. From the Asylum is a now-defunct webzine that segued into the website of owner/editor Katherine Sanger. But back in the glory days. . .
Poems submitted to the contest had to begin with My Sweetie Wears. . . The poem I entered came to me while I was putting in a half-hour on the Nordic Track. My husband and I were working as a cowboy music duo back then. Thus my poem, “Night Range”:
My sweetie wears a Stetson
Every night when he goes to bed
To save the shape of his six-inch brim
He stacks four pillows ‘neath his head
It’s not his hat that ails me
It’s the boots and spurs besides
It ruins my sleep when he shouts Giddy up
And plants rowels in my sides. . .
And so on.
I nabbed a 1st Place certificate and a check for $25 with this little beauty. The other entrants had to seethe, seethe, seethe!!! I was the one who got to say, “Look, it’s no big deal. Art is a subjective thing. A different judge and it could have been you.” Gracious, right?
Certainly I’ve done my share of seething. From the Asylum is the only place I haven’t finished up a bridesmaid. Except for the times I’ve been married. What I’m trying to say is, it’s really quite wonderful to be designated as a finalist in a wide field of entries. This has happened to me a few times, again, in conjunction with cowboy culture. When you come out the winner, there’s the necessity of topping that achievement to remain viable. When you lose, you meet a lot of nice people who have also lost and have lengthy “what if” conversations with them over drinks.
It takes a lot of emotional stamina to work in a field that’s subjectively judged. My former life in accounting was, for the most part, a world of concrete conclusions. It’s hard (for me) to get emotionally involved in processing payroll or analyzing financial statements. Sure, I felt wrung out at the end of a day of number crunching, but my toil was offset by a steady wage.
The wages of writing are different than that. Every so often I sell a book or have a speaking engagement and make a little money. Though I strive to make more of a living for my writing efforts, the pay primarily comes from the work itself. The reward of writing is writing.