It’s the taking part that counts

‘It’s the taking part that counts’ is a phrase often bandied about to make people feel better if they don’t win or get placed in a competition. Mostly it just washes over us and we’re still fed up that we didn’t get a prize. Perhaps we even think about throwing in the towel and not bothering to enter any more competitions. Last week I had an experience that made me truly agree that it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts.

My Speakers’ Club asked me to represent them in a Speech Evaluation Contest against two other clubs. This involves giving a four minute speech on the strengths and weaknesses of a ‘target’ speech which all three competitors have just watched. I was a bit reluctant since I’ve only been in the club eighteen months but decided to have a go anyway. My fear was that I wouldn’t be able to think of anything to say or I would dry up or I would speak in a muddled, incoherent way.

On the night, I discovered that one of my competitors runs a public speaking coaching business and the other had been education director of his club for fifteen years. This gave plenty of opportunity for making a fool of myself! Needless to say I came third (i.e. last!) in the competition BUT I was surprised to feel good in the face of defeat. There were lots of positives from the evening: I’d spoken to a larger audience than usual, I’d taken part in a speaking competition for the first time, I lasted the full four minutes, I’d been a ‘team player’ by agreeing to take part and my fellow Club members told me I hadn’t disgraced myself or let down the Club. I came away on a high!

So, what’s all this got to do with writing? It’s to urge you to enter writing competitions even if you think you don’t stand a chance of winning. You will learn and gain experience from each competition entry, it might be writing to a tight deadline, trying to write to a different word count than usual or experimenting with a new genre. Don’t worry about winning, concentrate on the challenge of producing the best work you can.

And to get you started, have a go at one (or more!) of these:

Erewash Writers’ Group New Writers’ Competition –   3,000 word short story. There is a £40 first prize and a FREE basic critique. Closes 26th March 2015.

Nuneaton Writers’ Circle Flash Fiction Competition – free entry. Prize is 1 year’s free membership of Nuneaton Writers’ Circle. Closes 27th March 2015.

Alfie Dog Review Competition –  download a story from Alfie Dog during March 2015 and write a  short review. First prize £100.

Enjoy the taking part!

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  1. #1 by Debbie W on March 3, 2015 - 9:23 pm

    Gosh, Sally, you were brave. Well done. I’m just wondering now if your speech included a four minute smile, lol

    Thanks for the mention about the EWG comps.

    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on March 5, 2015 - 8:07 am

      I did try to smile and look friendly whilst I was speaking, Debbie. It may have come across more as an awkward grimace though!

  2. #3 by juliathorley on March 4, 2015 - 10:12 am

    I agree that writing for competitions is good discipline: I’ve just written my first sci-fi short story and I’m not expecting to win, but I enjoyed the challenge. On the other hand, a couple of book review comps have revealed that this is something I can do. I only enter free ones, though, unless the prize is really tempting. I’m all for trying new things when I get the chance,and that should include pushing myself professionally. Well done for taking part in the public speaking event, which sounds very scary to me.

    • #4 by Sally Jenkins on March 5, 2015 - 8:08 am

      Fingers crossed for the sci-fi comp. Julia. I like the free competitions too but I guess they’ll get a lot more entries just because they’re free.

  3. #5 by Patsy on March 5, 2015 - 9:52 am

    I’ve sold several stories which I originally wrote for competitions but weren’t placed. I think that makes me a delayed winner?

    • #6 by Sally Jenkins on March 5, 2015 - 12:40 pm

      You’re absolutely a winner, Patsy! And that’s another good reason for entering competitions – if you don’t win, the story can be used elsewhere.

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