Friday, January 19, 2007

How to enter a writing contest

Discover that Michelle at Scribbit is hosting a writing contest about goals. Feel intimidated by the word “contest” and quickly hit the Back Arrow before your brain gets any crazy ideas. Go clean a toilet to distract yourself.

Find yourself back at Scribbit the next day. Covet the prize. Recall why you started a blog to begin with – to hone your writing skills, remember? Now a prime opportunity is staring you in the face. Do not hide from it. Do not Back Arrow away from it. Embrace your inner Steinbeck. You will write. You will hone!

After 30 minutes of staring at a blank screen (which you discover is not actually blank but filled with ghostly patterns…and pixelated cirrus clouds…and dwarfs) you have earned yourself a break. Pat yourself on the back for a good day’s work and vow to return tomorrow fresh and full of more brilliant ideas.

Three days later you still haven’t written a word, but don’t despair. Remind yourself that for some reason, Michelle announced the contest so far in advance that you have many days in which to plan, ponder, pontificate and procrastinate. Make a note to use plenty of alliteration in your entry.

A few days later, realize that before you can write about goals, maybe you should make some. Wonder why this never occurred to you before. Type the following list and feel a sense of accomplishment as your words banish the clouds and send dwarfs cowering into the corners of your screen.

Eat less sugar
Exercise every day
Spend more time reading to the kids
Spend less time criticizing the kids
Chase more cats out of the sandbox
Keep the internet addiction under control
Don’t forget to pray

Muse on the fact that these goals smell vaguely familiar. Could this be because you’ve made the same ones every year since you had kids, a sandbox and an internet connection? If there were a rent-to-own plan for goals, surely you’d have met the purchase price by now.

The next day, amid a morning of blog-surfing and in between batches of oatmeal cookies, take the time to look up “goal” in a dictionary. Words like end, terminal point, and finish line jump out at you. Interesting. Look up “goal” in your etymological dictionary just to be clever. Find this:

goal: ME gol, limit, boundary, occurring once only. AS goelan, to hinder, impede.

Jasper Johns Target
Even more interesting. Who would have thought that “goal” began as a word for impede. But really it all makes sense – a goal is an end point. Doesn’t a target actually stop the arrow from going further? Doesn’t the net on a soccer field end all forward progress? (Speaking of soccer, the line “occurring once only” in the definition makes you chuckle since you’ve witnessed professional soccer fans and commentators go absolutely manic when a goal is scored – this is because it happens so rarely).

Amuse yourself with sports metaphors. Is your life a soccer game? A race to the finish? An archery contest? Not likely. Your life is a boxing match with limitless rounds and hot-pads for gloves. Or maybe one of those motorized tennis servers that spew balls at you – one after another – at high speed. Thuwack…..thuwack…..thuwack, fix dinner….thuwack, change the baby…..thuwack, mop up that orange juice…don’t forget the orthodontist appointment….and here comes a rude remark from a relative (do you volley this one back or lower your racket and let it sail past?)

Resolve to eliminate all sports metaphors from your writing.

Look carefully at your “goals” again and conclude that none of them are goals at all. They are not end points. You will never be able to finish “eat less sugar” or “don’t criticize the kids.” There is no Perfect Body Bullseye or Motherhood Finish Line. It’s all a process. It’s all a frustrating, incomplete, loose ends hanging out all over the place process. So you’re deluding yourself if you think that you can tidy it up with a few smelly resolutions masquerading as goals. You might as well add “achieve perfection” to that list ‘cause it aint gonna happen in this lifetime, sister.

Decide to make one goal. One single, reachable, real goal. It doesn’t have to be a total makeover kind of goal or a clean-up-your-act-you-giant-flake kind of goal but maybe just something worth doing and worth having done. And it definitely needs to be something that leaves no doubt when you’re through.

Make the following goal: finish your entry for Michelle’s writing contest.

Finish it.

Smile as you hear the voices in the stadium cheer wildly – not because you’ve written something fabulous but because you finished it (and because they may or may not ever get another chance to celebrate).



Sheela said...

julie, loved this post... make room for the Valuable Prize by Toni Maury in your already full shelf of well-deserved Valuable Prizes.

Anonymous said...

I can hear the stadium roaring. I can feel the stadium roaring! Victory is yours - you have now procured your coveted prize! It is now a moot point for anyone else to enter the contest.

By the way, what's your new goal now that you don't have one :) ?!?

Anonymous said...

Loved it loved it. And I'm not even a soccer fan :)

I'm waiting with eager anticipation for the judge's decision.


allysha said...

At least you got it done! I have spent the past few weeks thinking to myself "I'm sure I have something to say about goals..." and alas, never coming up with it. Good post. Because isn't that how a lot of goals work anyway?

Anonymous said...

Call me crazy but I'm partial to the blank screen / back-patting part, even though you chose correctness over Tolkien for your dwarf plurality.

Consider me one of those wildly cheering fans: a season's ticket holder.

meno said...

Wonderful, truly wonderful.

Now you can start writing your acceptance speech.

Kimberly said...

I read this post yesterday, and was so excited to have a blank comment screen in front of me. At last, I was first! And I would write the wittiest comment ever and all who followed thereafter would be in awe of me!

And then Becca woke up and I had to dash. Darn it!

I can't remember what I was going to say. It was really, really fabulous though! I can only repeat everyone else now. You deserve the prize! I'm a fan! Can't wait to hear your acceptance speech!

Aw heck...I hate being unoriginal...bleh!

Anonymous said...


Heth said...

You mean we can't achieve perfection? Dang it.

Fabulous post Julie.