The Rules are the Selur

Does anyone else obsess over contest rules? I read and re-read and read yet again. I create a bullet point document with submission requirements. I check the FAQ in case there’s a question I haven’t thought of but others have and it’s really important. I mull over questions maybe the contest hasn’t thought of—everyone asks you to remove identifying information; this contest doesn’t; did they perhaps overlook that requirement? Finally, cringing, I hit the Submit button, certain I’ve missed something.

My phobia might be related to actual deficiencies. I don’t do logistics well. I find directions near-bought impossible to follow—assumptions seem to lurk between the actual numbered directions, assumptions everyone else understands but not me. Even recipes give me the heebie-jeebies: does “slice the apple” mean slice the apple lengthwise or across the middle? Who knows!

Maybe due to these proclivities or maybe just because, my life has been full of failure to follow the rules. Not, I assure you, because I’m a rebel. I’m full-on trying to pay attention and get it right when I’m gob-smacked by doing it wrong. Standing on stage in the fifth grade, my red plastic flute poised, finally having mastered playing “Good King Wenceslas” to the point of joining the try-outs, I almost wept when the teacher asked what I was doing on stage—the try-outs had closed the day before. How did I miss that?

It doesn’t help that contest managers use words that conjure frowning eyebrows: DO NOT. NOT ALLOWED. READ RULES CAREFULLY. SUBMISSIONS THAT FAIL TO FOLLOW THE RULES WILL BE REJECTED. FAIL, FAIL, FAIL.

Okay, I made that last one up. But sometimes that’s how it feels: we are making these rules as detailed and arbitrary and confusing as possible because . . . why? I don’t know. Ultimately, I must conclude the problem is mine: I’m not any good at this. So to compensate I read and re-read and read yet again. And, if I fail, I hope for kind administrators who—like the 5th grade teacher who grudgingly allowed me to play my plastic flute, fingers flying, during the Christmas play—forgive my errors.

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

contest rules, contest submissions, submitting to contests, submitting to writing contests, writing contests, writing submissions

Comments (9)

  • Bless you for posting this. I feel this way each and every single day of my life, and I am so afraid of submissions (for many reasons, but this also). You’re not alone, and I assure you, you are doing a GREAT many things RIGHT.

  • Ellen Morris Prewitt

    One of the benefits of sharing your fears and foibles is finding out you are not alone—thank you, Marisa, for making me feel less alone.

  • It is indeed a bit worrying, so many rules and after putting heart and soul into something, it hurts if it were to get rejected over something trivial.

    But, even though you’re worried, you’re still submitting and that’s the main thing 🙂

  • Ellen Morris Prewitt

    Thanks for the words of encourgement-I’ll try to remember that definition of courage about moving forward in spite of fear because I definitely have to do that to submit!

  • yes, yes, yes! They make me so nervous that I am sure to screw up. And then the dumbest stuff happens. Such as. I go to great trouble to format a ms to send to a contest that has a judge I will call Judge A. hah. I try to research and make sure I haven’t sent anything to Judge A in the past. I make sure everything is done correctly. I hit submit.
    Then guess what? I get an email 3 minutes later. If that. Maybe 2 minutes. A REJECTION from a contest from months earlier of the same piece sent to a different contest with . . . yes, you guessed it. Judge A.

  • Ellen Morris Prewitt

    That is so funny, Luanne! It sounds just like me. And the same piece! It might be funny to be on the other end of these stories too—the judge who gets these inexplicable submissions and stares at them, wondering, what we they thinking?

  • “Does anyone else obsess over contest rules?” Oh my god, yes, yes I do. I make a list, I check it thrice, I check off boxes, then I check my list against the submission guidelines, again, and then sit and think for several minutes about what I might have missed.

    Ah, the trials and tribulations of writing. Thanks for the post! 🙂

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