I heard from a local screenplay competition this week which I entered months ago, and as there were only nineteen participants, I held out hope that I might be one of the three winners. As the announcement date approached, I began crafting all kinds of interesting scenarios in my mind about winning, and where that might take me in my dream to see my script sold and produced.
When I got the e-mail announcing the three winners, none of whom were me, I was really disappointed. Once again, I put the cart before the horse in my mind, and began to imagine something which wasn't a hard reality. It's an affliction which plagues me from time to time, and used to waste huge chunks of my time. I should know better than to set myself up for failure, but sometimes it's fun to nose ahead in our minds and plan for the best-case scenario.
For the last two years I've been more disciplined than I've ever been about actually writing more and daydreaming less. I've seen great success, and at least as much failure. I've slowly learned to develop a thicker skin, and to understand that with writing comes a lot of rejection, and I've tried to give myself time to build the dream I'm aiming for. It doesn't happen overnight. I don't need to rush it.
But then I get ahead of myself. And instead of being grateful for this contest, which rushed me through a significant re-write in order to enter, I expect to win and then feel like a failure, when I have the chance to look at it as another stepping stone on the way to where I'm going. The fantasy element of dreaming that it will all be worthwhile if someone else says my writing is good is giving away too much of myself.
If I believe in what I'm doing, I have to keep going, regardless of winning awards or not winning them. It's not the end of the world not to win. There are other contests, and other avenues to getting an agent and selling a screenplay. Perhaps more re-writes are required. Maybe I should get going on my next screenplay and leave this one for now. There are a lot of roads open to me at this point, but being discouraged and beating myself up is not one which offers a lot of benefits.
I'm learning to feel the disappointment, and then look for what I can take away from the situation. In this case, I spent too much time hoping that with such low numbers in the contest, I could win, when in reality, if my screenplay is good enough to be sold it doesn't matter how many people are in a contest. I need to go on from here, and try again, and recognize that along this writing road there are many detours and setbacks, and also many wonderful moments, and you can't get one without the other.