The 2016 Rio Olympics ended last Sunday night. When every Olympics ends, I experience a period of emptiness and loss. For two weeks, the Games are always there – on television from dawn to dusk. For sports fans in particular, they become a large part of your day-to-day life while they’re going on. After the closing ceremony ends and for the next few days afterward, there is a void the Games leave behind that must be filled.
For over 1,700 entrants, myself included, the PitchWars writing contest ended on Wednesday night with the announcement of mentee selections. Those not chosen experience a withdrawal period similar to what happens at the end of the Olympics. During the two-plus weeks where mentors consider submissions, entrants spend much of their day sifting through the feed on the #PitchWars hashtag. As announcement day get closer, the suspense builds to an unbearable level.
Athletes spend years getting ready for the Olympics. Likewise, many writers have years invested in the novels submitted to the contest. When the PitchWars mentee announcement day comes, suddenly the contest is over for ninety percent of the entrants. It’s an emotional time for many of them. Some totally disappear from the Twitter feed because it’s just too painful to return. The hashtag that was the daily (and sometimes nightly) focus of hope is empty for them now. Just like the end of the Olympics, there is a void to fill.
Another comparison I’d like to make between the Olympics and PitchWars is what happens after the competition is finished. When athletes finish their competition in the current Games, they go through a process of introspection about their future. Do they have it in them to invest another four years of training in order to compete in the next edition of the Games? After four years pass, will they even be physically capable of competing at the level they expect of themselves?
For writers, timing doesn’t matter as much – PitchWars comes around every year, and there are other contests scattered throughout the year. Plus, there are no seasonal limitations to writing, editing, or querying. Age isn’t a factor – we can write whenever we please. The questions writers need to answer are more strategic in nature, i.e. Do I keep working on this book, or write something else? “Retiring” from writing is also an option that’s always on the table.
Olympic athletes and PitchWars contestants show a great deal of courage and spirit regardless of how the competition turns out. Win or lose, it takes a lot of heart to compete, and we all learn something in the process.