Does it matter?
Once upon a time, when I danced ballet, I never entered a dance competition. I’d barely even heard of a dance competition. We danced shows for our families and the community. We travelled to seniors centres to give them an afternoon of entertainment.
Dance was an art; we didn’t submit ourselves to long hours in the studio to be graded and beat out others. (I lie: we did want to beat out others, but it was petty rivalries and jealousies.) We strove to perfect our art.
So why does writing feel different? Why do we submit ourselves to being judged, to hoping to win this or that? Literature is an art, not a sport. Why does the ranking of a few random judges feel necessary to determine our work’s worth?
And that’s what it is: the ranking of one or more judges. Winning a competition means you’ve pleased that set of judges at that particular time. It doesn’t speak to which piece of writing is better. It speaks only to the personal preferences of a limited set.
Will I keep submitting my writing to competitions? Most likely. Because—although I know it’s not a be-all and end-all judgment—winning still feels damn good.
(Read my CBC-winning creative non-fiction piece “A Marriage to Music”—which also happens to illustrate my life as a dancer.)