A friend of mine reposted about a writing contest sponsored by Dream Foundry the other day. As I always do, I pulled up the link to see if the theme parameters were something that matched a story I’d already written or if it was something intriguing enough that I wanted to write a new story for.
Everything looked good. Any speculative fiction considered, check. No entry fees, check. Entrants retain all publication rights, check. Anonymous submission to ensure fairness, check.
The wheels were churning until I caught the eligibility clause: “A beginner is somebody who has not yet demonstrated professional-level proficiency as determined by the market wherein they work.” SFWA members specifically excluded.
Aah. I’m out, then.
An odd, mixed-up realization flooded through me.
I’m not a beginner anymore. No way, no how. I’ve got a SFWA card and everything, so it must be true. Those days of looking for writing contests are over. I’ve critiqued writers workshop submissions. I even ghost-copyedited a major speculative fiction e-zine for a few months.
But I don’t feel like a pro.
I’m not making my living as a full-time writer, I say. I haven’t been nominated for a World Fantasy Award, or even invited to the Hugo Loser’s Party. I’m not on anyone’s best-seller list or pushed in any “Year’s Best” anthology. I’m not a ‘name’, like King, LeGuin, Martin, Norton or Simmons. And the thing is, that stuff may never happen for me.
It doesn’t matter. I yam what I yam, and that’s a pro. Gotta keep writing. keep learning, keep growing. This is the real deal. This is the dream I wanted, manifested.
This post is not meant to be self-aggandization or a poke about turning pro or feeling sorry for anyone. This is an observation that beginning writers do have legitimate publication opportunities that are targeted exclusively toward them. Keep writing and take advantage of them whenever you can, because after a certain point, your writing will progress, and you won’t be a beginner anymore.
And you may find that you’ll think of these days of angst and striving to get ‘good enough’ never really end. They just become the good old days.