Minister's Study

Ministering, writing, and wrestling in a land flowing with sweet tea and deep-fried food

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Flash competition

It's funny how people like to make everything a contest. (Yes, even blogging even becomes competition fodder -- how many views have you had lately, huh? Take that, pal!) Now, competition can spur people on to excellence, and competition is a fact of life in the big, bad world out there. So it's not all bad that we create innocent little competitions where we can compete without terrible consequences for failure.

The Liberty Hall flashes are no different, really. Their primary purpose is to get people writing -- to spur us lazy artistic sorts (not that some of us are all that artistic, really) into creating something that we wouldn't have produced otherwise. But of course, it took about two nanoseconds before we were voting on which story was the best, which one has the best dialogue, which one would sound the best read aloud by James Earl Jones (okay, I made that one up -- but it should probably be included.) Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing -- this competition does motivate me to try to always put my best possible work out there. And the fact is, when these stories are put before an editor, it is a ruthless competition for space in his magazine.

Still, to get the absolute most out of these competitions, you have to be able to set aside that competitive urge, just a tiny bit. They are great for experimenting with new forms, genres, techniques, and more -- but if you're so driven to win the little voting sprees that you never try anything new (because it won't be as smooth and practiced as what you've done a hundred times before), you lose a major benefit of these challenges. We writers have to distance ourselves from that blood thirst for 90 minutes to produce something unique and beneficial to our writing skills.

Ha. It's always much more satisfying to see that you won "Best Character Development" for your group than to look within yourself and say, "Ah, yes -- I used dialogue and descriptions of mannerisms to reveal that character in a way that was new to me." In this week's flash, I wrote a joke story that totally didn't work with the readers -- but that's okay, because I tied for wins in two categories (we'll ignore for the time being the fact that my lame ending meant that I didn't get a single vote for "Best Story.") It doesn't help that I realized exactly what my story needed to work for most of the readers as I was going to bed that night -- too late to include it, but before the inevitable critiques came crashing in.

More importantly, my wife, called Joy in these online parts, won a category for the first time in her flash career. Give it up for Joy, winner of "Best Character Development" in her group!


At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Mary Robinette Kowal said...

Woo-hoo! Congratulations Joy!

At 10:49 PM, Blogger Will said...

I had a lot to learn about competition, and I learned it from my nephew. He wanted to play a game of insults (yo mama so ugly...), and I didn't. Conflict. But one time I went for a visit, and I decided, if he wants insults, I'll give him insults. See how *you* like having your face compared to a booger.

As it turned out, he liked it a lot. That's all he wanted. He didn't need to win all the time; he just enjoyed the game.

So now I do it with him through most of any visit. As for me, I want to win too, but I also enjoy the game. And it's really drawn us close together.

...and congratulations on your win!

At 11:24 PM, Blogger Minister said...

Yeah, that "See how you like it when I do it to you" approach to dealing with kids has backfired on me more than once. You'd think I'd learn, but it just seems like it should work!

At 7:02 AM, Anonymous Joy said...

So, you got to tell the cyber world about my win before I did. Thanks for being proud of me. Since you said it is a great place to practice something new--if you're not worried about the votes, that I tried something new. This new site looks nice, by the way.


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