Don’t Catch the Smug Bug

Not to be a Negative Nellie, but I have found as an author, that when I lower my expectations, the more success I have.

But, if I submit a piece thinking, “This is terrific,” it almost always comes back to bite me. Case in point – I recently entered a short story into a contest, having high hopes for the piece. The story was professionally edited, and my editor had given me excellent feedback. I entered the contest not thinking if I would place, but where I would place. I wasn’t so arrogant to believe I’d win, but I honestly thought the story was so good it would certainly merit an honorable mention at the very least.

My awakening was harsh, to say the very least. Three very good stories placed first, second, and third. There were seven runners-up and ten honorable mentions. My name wasn’t among any of those. Rejection is always hard, but this was particularly painful because I had gotten smug, believing publication was almost a sure thing, especially since I’ve been published several times this past year.

Judging a contest, like landing an agent is a subjective business. However, I was humbled with the realization that there are other writers who are more accomplished. That doesn’t mean I’m going to give up, just lower my expectations and watch out for any sign of slipping into arrogance. Because when the smug bug bites, it leaves you smarting.

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