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POINT OF VIEW: Deciphering the Universe’s Mixed Messages

I’m an asshole. But we’ll get back to that in a minute.

I won four Rainbow Awards on Saturday night. I should have been over the moon, right?

But here’s the thing. Every one of them was a second place finish.

In 2017, I won a bunch of them too. Also ALL second place wins.

When you think about it, second place is actually pretty damned good. Amazing, really. it’s higher than 99% of the other folks who entered. And four different winning books in one year? That’s practically unbelievable.

So why was my initial reaction “Gah”?

Fans of this column know I’m really trying to make a go of this writing thing as a career. To level up to something beyond just making enough money to buy some new socks or go out to a nice dinner or replace the tires on the car every coupla years. To be more than a beloved but little-known niche writer.

I’ve been trying a number of things to get there. And so far the Universe’s response is a decided “meh.”

Pitch wars? Not a bite.

#dvpit, the diversity Twitter pitch day? One bite, but nothing has come of it so far.

#pitmad, another pitch day? Absolutely fricking zilch.

So I was hoping for a big win this time, a first place to confirm I’m on the right path.

Instead I got four second places.

Sometimes I think the Universe enjoys poking fun at us. “Let’s throw him a bone. But make sure it’s a small one.” It excels at cutting us down to size, at keeping us humble. At reminding us that we’re not as good as we thought, and that this whole success thing will never come easy.

I messaged a friend of mine this morning, after thinking about the second place thing in the warm light of a new day.

“I’m an asshole.”

She asked me why.

“Because I’m complaining about winning four – count ’em, four – Rainbow Book Awards.”

Having given it a bit more thought, I’d realized that it’s not about the second place thing. Or at least, not entirely.

It’s about feeling jerked around by the Universe, and not having a clear path forward. I really want to know where I’m going, and if this whole thing will ever pan out.

Most writers deal with this – that creeping dread that we’re not good enough, and even if we are, it may not matter.

This author thing is not an easy gig. It means hours and hours of lonely work, followed by sometimes vicious reviews of your baby, and then low pay even if your sales are halfway decent. None of us would be doing this if we didn’t love to write.

Need to write.

And what I need now is a clear win. But those seem to be in short supply in these days of angst and anger and fake fake news.

Then as if on cue, I got a beautiful review from Lou Sylvre for “The River City Chronicles.” She really got what I was trying to do with that book, and her take on the book made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The rest of my second place angst melted away.

So I’m doing my best to be philosophical about the whole thing. One of these days, either the Universe will finally bring me a clear win, or it won’t.

Until then, I’ll keep entering contests, searching for agents, and doing pitch events. And I’ll keep trying to read the tea leaves.

But most of all, I’ll try to remember to savor the beautiful moments when they come.

And not to be an asshole.

To my fellow writers, what is the Universe trying to tell you?

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