For those who do not know: I am competitive. Over the last four years as a mother, though, I've slowly let myself realize that doing my best is far more satisfying than playing a game I know I'll win.
With that in mind, I entered my first writing contest, the 2010 Transitions Abroad Narrative Essay contest without any expectation of winning. Rather, I felt the satisfaction of knowing I poured my heart into the essay and had the professional courage to let two seasoned editors give a truthful critique before sending it in (thank you Tracy and Melissa).
Fourteen days later, I had the results: My essay, "A Return to the Smallest Country in Africa," had taken third place (and I was getting some cash, too!).
Now, if I were playing trivia, I would brood over a 3rd place finish for a long time. My writing career, however, is nothing but trivial to me, and I see it this way: I've added another notch to my writing portfolio, been paid to do it, and the story I tell in the essay will be read by a target readership that is likely to be inspired to action. Mission accomplished, 3rd place is great. (Although I can always aspire to take first place next time around...)
If you're interested in reading "A Return to the Smallest Country in Africa," visit Transitions Abroad in February 2010, when the winners will be published. AND - if you're a writer, make sure to check out their contest page: they have another contest deadline in February!