The New Year is rapidly approaching and, while I’m not usually one to make New Year’s Resolutions, I decided, why not make some writing resolutions this year.

I don’t consider finishing my book to be a proper resolution. This is something I work on all the time. In my mind, resolutions should be about trying something new. So this year, I am resolving to start entering writing contests.

Why writing contests?

I’ve resisted writing contests for a while. I thought they would distract me from my book. But then I got a new writing exercise book from my writing buddy, The Daily Writer: 366 Meditations to Cultivate a Productive and Meaningful Writing Life, by Fred White. The book has one exercise for every day of the year. Being the go-getter that I am, I thought I’d get a head start and check out the exercise for Jan. 1. And I found myself stumped.

The exercise asked me to write an allegory. I’ve never taken a creative writing class so I’ve never really had the opportunity to sit down and write an allegory. And I was a bit shocked to find that I had no clue where to start.

But what about the Writing Contests?

In thinking about how to complete this exercise, I realized that I was being forced to stretch my imagination, to look at stories in a way I don’t normally look at them. I may subconsciously think of things as being allegories, but thinking something is an allegory and trying to write your own allegory are two very different things. In thinking about this exercise, I also started thinking about my WIP in a different way. Instead of stifling my creative energy, the exercise was expanding it.

Writing contests are similar to this exercise. They give you parameters (even if it’s just a word count) and they give you a deadline. Both of these are good skills for someone looking to turn writing into something other than a hobby. And, if writing contests are anything like this exercise, they will help my creativity soar. Another good thing for a writer.

In addition to helping to foster new skills, writing contests also lead to exposure. I may not win any contests, but I will be getting my name out there and meeting others who are entering the same contests, or at least meeting their writing if they win. And if I do win a contest, all the better.

Back to my resolution

I don’t want to overwhelm myself. After all, I work a full-time job and am trying to finish my WIP. But I also don’t want to let myself off too easily. So this year I’m going to enter 3 writing contests. Why 3? Well, 4 seemed like too many and 2 seemed like too little, so 3 it is.

Now I just need to figure out which contests to enter. Maybe I’ll start with this Highlights Fiction Contest that I learned about over at MiG Writers

What do you think about writing contests? Have you ever entered one? Have you ever won?