Why Not Making the Golden Heart Finals Is Okay

Jennifer Bradshaw

Back in January, I accomplished something that, to me, was pretty huge.

But let me back up a bit.

November was National Novel Writing Month. For those who followed my old blog (which seemed to die out around that time), you know that I embarked on an emotional roller coaster ride that sucked me in, dragged me down, and spit me out a changed person. Well, that didn't all make it into the blog, because I got sucked in, dragged down and spit out changed.

In November, I completed a 300 page, first draft, manuscript. Boldly, I decided to edit, revise, rewrite and prepare that same manuscript in time to enter it in the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart competition. The Golden Heart is open only to unpublished authors of the romance genre. It's a pretty big deal at the end of the day, because manuscripts that make the final round are read and judged by acquiring editors for publishing houses. In other words, if you make the finals, your work is being reviewed by someone would could offer you a book deal.

So, in 65 days, I went from blank screen to 550 page final draft. That included 3 rounds of rewriting and revision, two rounds of beta readers reading, editing and giving me feedback, a number of 18 hour days, tons of coffee and sugar, a lot of printer ink, and hours of Amazon Prime music streaming the same 8 songs over and over until I felt I had something worth submitting.

When the January deadline loomed large, I got the manuscript as done as I could, and sent it off. I still wasn't happy with it; I knew there were major issues still with the manuscript, but I took the plunge anyway. 

For 2 months, I felt like I was holding my breath, waiting for the March 21 Finals lists release. Tension sneaked in when my guard was down, but for the most part, I spent more time being calm and releasing my expectations of any particular outcome. (Of course, that didn't change the fact that I really, really wanted to make the finals.)

When March 21st rolled around, I received no phone call. My email in-box did not chime with any notice from the RWA. My name did not appear on the list of finalists. I had not made that magical finals list.

okay not to succeed

I sat back, and had a moment of sadness. I was looking forward to sharing some really great news that day. Instead, I would be sharing with my friends, family and beta readers, that I hadn't made the list. Deep breath taken, I shared that news instead, and then sat back to find the lesson in the sadness.

I discovered that the sadness and disappointment wasn't all that deep or profound. Instead, I found a sense of peaceful release, and a host of positive reactions to the news. 

In not making the finals I learned that I can handle rejection; it isn't the end of the world.

In not making the finals, the Universe granted me an opportunity to be a role model to my daughter. She is home schooled, and aspires to be an author someday. Rejection is part of the career, and it's part of life. Learning to take constructive criticism and step back to give your work a hard look is also part of being a writer.

I struggle with anxiety and PTSD. Taking chances and putting myself out into the world is a very real struggle for me on a daily basis. Anything that exposes me to the public requires time and releasing on my part just to take that step. 

In submitting this work, I learned that it isn't the end of the world. I will not crumble from the effort to try something daring and difficult. The world will not stop turning because I did something terrifying.

Making the finals would have been an extraordinary experience. 

Not making the finals turned out to be an extraordinary experience as well. And I'm okay with that.

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