Waiting, waiting. As ever. Sometimes it never seems to progress, does it? You write stuff, you send it out, and then it’s – the Void. I’m sure wellknown writers feel the same sort of thing, because whenever I go to readings or events, there’ll always be some Big Name outlining how hard it was for them to get started, and how awful it was, waiting for the yes/no envelopes (back in the day – no email!) and then the WAITING. Like, months. Not even a few days, no. Months. Well, I’m one of those preoccupied waiters right now, thinking of my little manuscript sitting there with all the other hopefuls as it shifts at a glacial pace towards a final decision. I’m glad to have made it this far of course. Past the initial selection, and on through what a film person would describe as Development Phase, even though it feels more like some dreadful half-state akin to a Dantean circle of Hell. Sometime this Spring I’ll get a final decision on that script, and it’ll be either a) cast into an even deeper darker further circle of non-being for all eternity, or b) it’ll be fanfares and a light at the end of the tunnel as another creative effort makes it into the real world at last.
Competition though. That’s a thing. I dislike competing with the other poets out there and I enter the minimum number of comps per year – two or three. I don’t see why poets should feel as if they must compete like frantic parents for a place at a selective academy, or why they should imagine they might gain ‘edge’ or career traction from being third in line. It’s like we’re all being trained to participate not as writers, but as gameshow contestants; to accept that Prizes Mean Points, and it’s somehow part of the reality of being a poet, instead of something which the market has thrust on us. We’re not at school, for heaven’s sake; you can write whatever you want and there’s probably a magazine or arts project out there which publishes exactly that kind of thing. You don’t have to throw good money after bad and send your poems in to Little Dripping’s Biennial Versefest Competition (1st prize £100). It’s not automatically on the job description of Being A Poet. If you add up a modest £50 which you might spend on comps per year, and multiply it by the number of years you might be active as a poet, you’re looking at 2k and beyond. For that kind of sum you could publish your own collection, hold a reading at an independent bookshop, and kickstart some interest in your actual work. Just putting it out there….