What happens when you actually win?

I was so overwhelmed and delighted by the news yesterday that I had won the Indigo-First Collection competition that for the first time in a long time, I didn’t know what to say. It was a really strange day for me – I had achieved something I’ve been working towards for a very long time, but I also had a job to do. As the congratulations poured in over twitter I was actually writing a press release for a local firm of accountants. When I finally got home, I still didn’t know what to say, or quite what to do with myself. I am an inveterate planner, but I don’t think I’d ever planned for this.

It’s interesting that I’ve spent a really long time getting used to rejection. I have an efficient submission system which means when poems get returned to me, I send them swiftly back out somewhere else without a second glance at the rejection. Every single time I get an acceptance, it’s a thrill and an honour. Every single time it is a surprise. I’m not sure I ever want that to change, it is a little miracle to have something you’ve created out in the world where it might comfort or inspire a total stranger. So, I’m OK with rejection because it is all part of the magic of publishing.

I’ve also spent a long time building my resilience. I don’t want to get into a long list of complaints, my life is a fortunate one in so many ways, but the last ten years have thrown a lot at me, from losing a job to losing a parent, and pretty much every kind of petty annoyance and major heartbreak in between. After every setback and obstacle, I’ve taken a deep breath, swept aside any inclination to whine about the unfairness of it all (eventually) and kept on plodding forward. I’ve completed an MA and am currently studying for a PhD whilst working full time, and it’s never been easy. I have wanted to give up more times than I can count. It’s only now that I know I keep going for moments like yesterday, when I achieved my dream. I feel like I’ve just received the final link in my chainmail armour of resilience. Now, next time I have to pick myself up, I finally know what it’s all for.

I don’t know if I can say I’ve learned anything yet. I can say that whatever your dream, don’t give up. If you’re an artist, focus on your work and try to tune out what the rest of the world is doing. Let your friends and loved ones believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself and you’ll get a chance to repay that faith one day. And maybe plan just a little for success, so you don’t end up sitting in your kitchen with a mini bottle of champagne and no earthly idea what to do with yourself. 

Thanks go to everyone who’s kept me going over the years – family, friends, tutors, fellow writers – you’re all incredible humans. Fist bump to my fellow winner, Ben Gwalchmai, whose work I can’t wait to read – the title alone is intriguing and perhaps puts mine to shame (although it makes me laugh every time I read Hag: Zoe Mitchell, so no regrets on that score.) Huge appreciation and big hugs also to Ronnie and Dawn at Indigo Dreams for supporting my work and helping me fulfil my dream. What a day yesterday was, and what a wonderful time we have ahead. I seem to have gone slightly off-plan and it feels like I’m walking on air.