If you’ve ever studied Shakespearean tragedy you’ve learned one thing – every hero has a tragic flaw.
Now, I’m no hero. And my life is a far cry from Hamlet or Othello. But flaws? I’ve got plenty.
If I have to pick one to classify as tragic – which, for the purpose of this blog post I’ll define as causing me grief, angst and much metaphorical forehead-smacking – it’s got to be impatience.
Back in June when I was gearing up for the release of Dance with Me, I was determined not to make the same mistakes with its launch as I did with my first novel, Please. (Read my post on What Not to Do here.) So, I spoke to other authors, read blogs, took workshops and did my best to sift through the volumes of (often contradictory) advice for authors planning a new release.
One piece of promotional advice struck me – enter contests. It made sense. There are so many romance authors out there. If you haven’t heard of an author, what would make you pick up her book? Placing in a contest sets the book apart from the pack –gives it a stamp of approval.
So in my usual hasty fashion, I scrolled through the list of RWA contests in the weekly newsletter to find any I could submit one of my books to, gave a cursory scan to the guidelines, and hit submit.
I was just checking one thing off my list. I didn’t think I had any real chance of winning.
So when I found out I was a finalist in the Las Vegas RWA I Heart Indie Contest, I was surprise and delighted. It couldn’t get any better than that, could it?
Then, in early November, I open my inbox to find an email from the organizers of another RWA chapter contest. Not only was I a finalist. Dance with Me had won first place in the erotic category!
Another email pinged in. One of the contest judges, an agent from a prominent literary agency wanted to see my manuscript. Another email. More good news! Another judge, an editor at one of the Big Five, wanted to see my manuscript, too.
That’s when it hit me.
Why would they want to see my manuscript? Dance with Me had already been published.
With a sinking heart, I clicked over to the chapter’s website and read through the contest rules again. The word “unpublished” leaped out at me – mainly because it was bolded and in italics. How could I have missed that?
Well, way back in early June when I submitted Dance with Me to the contest, it was still unedited and unpublished, as the contest guidelines stated. But by the time the contest closed, it was live, and therefore out of the running.
I was disqualified.
I felt kind of like I’d bought the winning lottery ticket, only to have it snatched out of my hand by the wind. No. That’s not right. It was more like buying the winning lottery ticket and deciding to use it to blow my nose.
Because it wasn’t chance that resulted in my being disqualified. It was failing to read and understand the contest rules in my hastiness to submit. It was my own impatience.
Now, I could beat myself up about this. (All right. Full disclosure. I did. But just a little bit.) Or I could see it as a learning experience. An opportunity for development and growth.
Because maybe it’s not our virtues that define us, but our flaws. Maybe what gives us worth is that we can acknowledge our weaknesses, and if not overcome them, at least work with them.
And maybe the next time I want to click “submit”, I’ll hit pause.