Totally and Completely Crushed

I’ve been working on a couple of long-format science fiction stories on and off for the past several years, but have only in the last six months become really serious about finishing them or dreaming (beyond hope?) about laying the foundations for a new career as a novelist.

In recent history my work life has actually been one of the biggest boosts to my writing life. I couldn’t find the creative job I had imagined for myself after finally getting my bachelor’s at the end of 2005 (Mass Communication, Middle America State University, cum laude even!), though I spent nearly four months actively trying to find it. Back when I was doing the Internet marketing development thing I had a lot of satisfaction with where I was and where I thought I was headed. At the same time, though, I knew I wasn’t creating anything upon which I’d ever be able to prop my feet; whatever mediocre talent I had was being spent on somebody else. That it went toward making scads of money for my employer wasn’t really a problem since I wanted it to do the same for me, but I was always strangely jealous of the time and effort the company “stole” from me. I got paid pretty well, sure, but around 2004 the pay started losing ground as a “good enough” factor for me. I’ve never had aspirations of running my own business or anything like that, but I really started feeling the need to build something–in the creative sense–for myself. Problem was, I came home so mentally exhausted every day that there was no way in the world I could even think of writing or repairing my butt-ugly website or anything else of that nature during my downtime. Ever. So, after I finished my re-education and found that my “dream job” didn’t exist… and after the couple weeks of second-guessing my decision to become a software loadtester instead of something better suited to my perceived abilities… I started settling back into the work-eat-sleep pattern with which I had become so accustomed. It didn’t take long to realize, though, that even after a long day at the office the part of my brain that can create (and wants very much to do so) was–shocker!–not tired and cranky and fed up! So… short story long, late last year I started writing again in earnest.

I discovered at some point that my friend Julius, a big director/producer/digital effects guy here in Middle America, was (on top of everything else) also a very talented writer. He propped me up but good with some encouraging words and started talking about a writers’ workshop with which he’s been involved for many years. It really looked like a pretty good program and I was excited to attend, but it was too expensive in terms of dollars and time away from the job hunt to be a viable option for me last year. I learned they had full-pay scholarships available for first-time attendees, and so I decided the best way to get in this year would be to win that. It’s a ten day event but since it spans across two weekends and Memorial Day I would only have to take 5 days off work to go. That’s half my vacation time for the year, but it seemed worthwhile considering all that I stood to gain from the [potentially free] seminars and lectures.

And so it was that I worked my butt off to polish the first chapter of my current novel, Project One, the name of which serves double duty in meaning, in order to meet the scholarship submission deadline this past February. I made myself physically sick with worry over it and even missed a couple days of work so I could finish in time. It didn’t surprise me, though, that as soon as I overnighted my finished package to the judging committee the deadline was extended by two weeks. It also didn’t surprise me that they lost my entry for a few days. Why? Because I was confident I would win, and bad things always happen before the good… right? That’s how my mother always felt, anyway, and it seemed she was usually right about those kinds of things. There was nothing to do but wait at that point, and since the winner notification date got pushed back along with the submission deadline there was a whole lot of waiting to be done.

So I waited and waited and waited, and the knots in my stomach got bigger and tighter and more clearly visible from the outside every day. As my wife would say, I had knots that gave birth to knots. Every time I got done waiting, it was time to wring my hands a few times and then wait some more.

The notification day was supposed to be Monday, but here it is Wednesday and I haven’t heard anything. I can only assume this means I lost, but along with being totally and completely crushed I’m also aggravated beyond measure that the losers weren’t contacted as well. As fellow writers, the committee should understand what an investment we applicants each have in our stories, and the eagerness with which we submitted them in the first place. Simply put, this was a very big deal to me, and I’m confused and disappointed by the sounds of silence. Nothing from Julius, either, who was one of the judges again this year. He did ask a question a few weeks ago about my going even if I didn’t win, though, and at the time I sort of took it as an indication that he felt I wouldn’t be getting the scholarship. They say the waiting is the worst part, but I think waiting unnecessarily trumps everything else. The conflict between hoping for victory and assuming loss is terrible, and I just wish I could have the bad news already. This stinks. Actually, this fracking stinks.

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