On March 25, 2010, a pretty spectacular event occurred in my life: I learned I am a finalist in RWA's Golden Heart (R) contest in the Paranormal category. Far out!
Making the finals of the Golden Heart (R) is kind of like receiving a nomination for an Oscar (R) - maybe you felt like you'd done some good work, and maybe your friends and family thought so too, but this is proof that people completely unconnected to you respond to your creativity and just how cool is that?
In the shower that Thursday morning, I tried to keep my anticipation in check. I listed all the reasons why I wouldn't be a finalist. Didn't let myself think, really, about the possibility of making the grade. It had been so many months since the contest entry deadline, I think my hope-well had run a little dry. Instead, I concentrated on the typos and data-dumping and clunky world-building and complete and utter obviousness of my writing. Surely these had beaten the judges down, and my score too.
I had friends and critique partners still in the race. A sliver of sparkly eagerness left, too. So I dressed appropriately. Gold blouse. Bronze wolf medallion from the Renn Faire in honor of my werewolf hero, Joe. When I read the email informing me of my spot in the finals, I think I glowed more brightly than the blouse. I called family, I emailed friends and colleagues, I posted on Facebook.
As the day unfolded, I kept waiting to hear that some other key folks had finalled as well.
But they didn't.
So in the midst of my high, I felt awkward and lonely and just weird. Like maybe I didn't deserve the honor. Like - why me and not them? Why me and not all of us? I know their writing. It's excellent work. So, why? In the aftermath I started feeling like the fickle finger of fate had stepped in and I was in the line-up not for merit but from chance.
And it occurred to me...
Was I really having a pity-party for being a finalist?
Um, yeah. In fact, I've been pity-partying about it all this weekend, alack, alas. Which leads me to part two, section two of my blog post title: Depression. I'm always a bit dumbfounded about what triggers a bout of depression for me. In looking back on various episodes, it becomes clear that they nearly always involve a victory. Graduation from high school and college? Check. Upon the completion of two marathons five years apart? Check. Buying a home? Check. Typing "THE END" on my first novel? Check, check, check, check, check.
Navel-gazing about the why of the depression-linked victory is a topic for another post (Hallelujah!). Instead, I want to move onto part two, section three: Resurrection. Somehow Easter Sunday seems like perfect timing to slough off the emotional blues and ring in an improved attitude. How? Aha! The million dollar question. Part of the secret is action begets emotion. You've heard people say they are going to write once they feel "inspired" and then you never see them writing? Cuz they've got the cart before the horse. I felt pretty yucky all weekend but I knew I had to make this deadline. I didn't feel inspired to write when I logged on. But I feel renewed by what I've written and will take that into tomorrow with me as part of my emotional resurrection. I am inspired because I have taken action to make mincemeat of my depression.
Are you wondering about the managing expectations part? My suggestions follow below. Would love to know yours, too. Please share!
1) "I can do anything for two minutes." A phrase I took to heart during marathon training. Yes, you really can get through 7.5 hours and walk/jogging 26 miles if you break it down into two minute intervals.
2) "Tomorrow is another day." Whether you're a Scarlett fan or not, the simple truth is at some point the crisis of the moment will turn into yesterday's old news. Keeping that in mind helps enormously to put things in perspective.
3) "It's always darkest before the dawn." Okay, so I'm drawn to cliches. Sue me. And this one may seem pretty similar to the second, I'll grant you. But if you are awake and alone in the middle of the night and thinking scary thoughts, this is a good mantra to have in your back pocket. [listen, if you are thinking REALLY scary thoughts, CALL someone right away - no kidding and NO DELAY!!] Things DO improve in the light a day, if only your ability to reason, to laugh, to take a chill-pill, to reconnect with the realities of your life, to take some kind of ACTION.
Winning the Golden Heart (R) will not give me an auto-pass into published author status.
Not winning won't mean I have to throw in the towel and power down my keyboard for good.
I've journeyed through a bit of a dark night of the soul around this topic, given my anxiety enough "two minute" bon-bons and I'm done. No more dwelling.
Yay! I'm a Golden Heart (R) finalist! And it's awesome. And I get to keep writing my stories regardless. A contest does not a career make. Depression is a part of my life, but one I get better at handling as the years go by. And tomorrow, which is another day, my reality will include Spanish class, work, MS revisions, and (hopefully) responding to your comments.
Latching onto the affirmative,