I did something very scary this year and entered my first writing contest.

i didn’t win.

You’d think that it wouldn’t be a big deal to me. After all, I also released a YA novel, three romance novellas, and a short science fiction story this year, plus tons of blogging. I have met so many goals that I set for myself and it’s only August. I have lots of reasons to be proud.

But a contest is different. It’s someone else telling the world, hey look at this person and how awesome they are.

Do I really need that external validation? My disappointment seemed out of proportion with the goals I set for myself. I wanted to indie publish books and run a podcast and website this year. I don’t want to submit to journals and contests.

Do I?

Rejection as a writer, no matter how nice the words used, always sounds like “you’re not good enough.” This is the message moms already hear pretty much every single day from the outside world. Every single thing your kid does wrong is another nail in the coffin where you bury the secret “perfect mom” dream you’ve been carrying around since you felt the first flutter of a heartbeat in your belly.

I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to want the outside world to, on occasion, tell you you’re awesome and actually good at something that’s generally viewed as hard.

So, how am I dealing with this recent round of rejection and disappointment (other than writing this long and not terribly organized blog post)?

Reminding myself of what I am aiming for. Which, until now, I thought was pretty solid.

I thought my what was to be be a “Writer” capital W. But that’s actually the how, on my way to the what. (That was a little confusing…Check out our free self-publishing workbook for writer moms for a full rundown of What, Why, Who, How, and When.)

My what is using my knowledge and skills to help people solve problems. Throughout my entire professional career, that is the one common thread in every job I’ve had.

I like writing. I like the puzzle of it and the challenge. I like creating whole worlds and unleashing characters into them and seeing what they do. I like the magic of writing without knowing exactly what will happen and being amazed and the people I have somehow brought to life on the page.

But I like real people more. And I love helping them. If I had to choose today between writing fiction or helping writer moms, I would pick helping, for sure.

So writing is actually the how that gets me closer to my what. What do I want? To help. How will I get there? By writing.

This thought exercise helped a lot this week as I worked through all my icky feelings. They’re still lingering beneath the surface, because I still want some kind of external validation. And I probably always will (hello middle child syndrome!).

But I want other things, too. Reminding myself of them when rejection and disappointment rear their ugly heads can make life as a writer mom just a little easier.

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