One hundred and fifteen. CXV. 115.
I remember when there were seven of us, shivering in an old strip mall, unwilling to take off our coats, learning that, when writing at least, murder was good.
I remember when there were five of us, the entries, the suspense, the morning I realized I wrote a book.
I remember when the forum consisted of 5 members - Mr.S., Mrs.S., me, and two dummy accounts controlled by Mr.S.
I remember when we hid behind plastic bushes when we realized there were new people on the forum, where before our seven voices had echoed in the vast auditorium.
1,172. One thousand one hundred and seventy-two.MCLXXII.
I could go on. But there's really something I want to address.
There were 115 entries to the third annual OYAN Contest, approximately 30 semi-finalists, 8 finalists, 3 top prizes, and 1 one winner.
Of course, all due congratulations to those who finalized (go Grace!) and placed. But this is for the others.
Because, placement or not, you're awesome.
The truth is, you'd be awesome even if you hadn't written a novel. As far as I know, you're all God's children--and even if you aren't, He's still chasing you.
But let's focus on the novel. Lots of you write for His glory. Lots of you write to change a world, to rescue a dying people. All of you choose to do something hard, something not very many people do, because you thought it was worth it.
It is worth it.
I've brought it up on this blog before, I think, but let me be blatantly honest: the 2009 contest devastated me. After all the hype, the best I could do was finalize. It's taken me solid months to recover. I'm glad it happened, though, even though I felt again the pangs of why couldn't I win? last night. Before, I'd said that I'd write for the glory of God alone. 2009 put that to the test. I realized that's not really why I wrote. It was part of the reason, sure, but it wasn't the only reason. I had other motives, or at the very least, other wishes.
Writing is a lonely occupation. Most of the time, you're left with you, story issues, and the uncaring and always completely unhelpful computer screen. This loneliness is why I think the writing forum has been so good for me, and countless others. It says you're not alone. We're in this together. We're going to change the world.
Writing is also hard to stamp as "good." When do you know that you've done it? When your writing is worth something? How do you know? Publication? Sells? Reviews in newspapers? Bestseller lists?
When I went into 2009, I was hoping for some kind of confirmation that I was doing the right thing. If I'd won, I'd probably gone: "yes! This means I'm a writer."
It's harder, though, when you don't get confirmation. You only keep going because you think that that's where God has lead you. You have to learn to say: "okay, no one may ever notice it, but it's worth it because You told me to do it."
It may sound insane, but it's taken me almost a year (in some ways, more) to come to the point where I say: "okay, God, this is in your hands. Show me what to do. Help me not need worldly confirmation."
Don't get me wrong, this lesson isn't fully learned. I think I'm being directed towards writing a screenplay at the moment. Last night, though, I could help wondering, thinking...God, could I write another novel? Please? Can I have another go at it?
Because I still want that confirmation. I'm a perfectionist. I want the top spot. I want to know that I really know what I'm doing, because hey, I placed first.
Maybe I don't really know what I'm doing. Maybe I'm still hoping for too much glory for myself. I don't know. But, last I heard, God said screenplay. I need to stick it out. Maybe it'll change the world. Maybe it'll change my heart. Maybe I'll just learn. But whatever the future is, it's good, because it's God's plan.
So, to the 107 who didn't place: you're awesome and amazing. You wrote, you struggled, you edited, you almost went insane. You're God's, and, whatever the world says, what you wrote is of immense value. Whether he has the life of a writer planned out for you or not, this last year wasn't wasted. You did terrific. You finished. You learned. You entered. He loves you.
And, though this may sound extremely superficial, I love you. When I was driving to orchestra last night, an hour and a half before the webinar, God filled me with love for all of you--even though I've never met most of you. He has a plan, and it's beautiful. Learn, love, discover.