Questions for you

by Pari

How are you?
Recovering from the Stupor Bowl?
Feeling self-righteous because you didn’t watch it?
I’m in a philosophical mood today, starting this blog for the 3rd or 4th time in two weeks. It’s not that I lack inspiration or subject matter. It’s that I’m not quite sure how to verbalize my latest train of thought. You see, I’ve been thinking about
winning awards
pushing toward goal after goal
judging others’ work.

And I haven’t come to any conclusions. I simply have several colorful — and related, I think — skeins of yarn that might, someday, knit into a nice something.

Skein 1:  During the last few weeks, I’ve been reading novels for a statewide contest. Having been on the other end of this type of activity, I know what it means to have bragging rights as a nominee for an award. But did those bragging rights really give me anything but pride or internal validation? And, nowadays, there are so many awards for just about everything that I am not sure they have the same power they once did. And who am I to judge anyway?

Skein 2:  I’ve been working to lose weight per doc’s orders (thank you, ldl — you bad cholesterol, you). When I reach one goal, I immediately think, “Wow. I could lose more!” What’s with that? The same thing happens with exercise, because achieving the same thing day in and day out seems somehow like a waste (and it’s not efficient for fat burning/cardio, now is it?)

Skein 3:  How does all of this relate to being here now? How can a person remain in the present or appreciate the present when all focus is on constant improvement, winning, pushing forward etc. etc.?

This isn’t existential angst at all. I’m merely continuing my journey of examining absolutely everything. Every. Damn. Thing.

So, what’s your take?
Are writing/literary contests meaningful?  
How does a person reconcile wanting to constantly improve with wanting to live in the Now?
When does a person gain enough expertise to judge another’s work?


8 thoughts on “Questions for you

  1. Sarah W

    Writing contests are hit or miss for me. They may be good for a temporary ego-hit — supposing my entry at least places, because the hit's a bit different and the bruises tend to linger if it doesn't — but if I don't otherwise get something from the experience (synopsis practice, a new method or style to fiddle with, giggles, etc.), it's a waste of time and probably money.

    Living in the Now is learning to enjoy the stretch of muscles and one's alone time on the treadmill, and the taste of fresh apples and the tang of lemons in water, while knowing that these small pleasures are moving one along to a long term goal.

    As for the last question, you got me — it's a subjective field.

  2. Pari Noskin

    Nice description of the Now. Very nice. I like the idea of living in the present, but that goals can be achieved in the same moment. For example, I have a goal of increased fitness. Yesterday, I took a walk, just a lovely walk, that met that goal without intentionality.

    Re: Contests
    Yes, I used to use them for writing exercises too. Now, not so much.

    As to expertise, I have no idea either. In judging the books I'm reading right now, my first and most important element is whether the book keeps me engaged for the right reasons. If I'm distracted by the writer trying too hard, a really disjointed storytelling technique etc … I'm not even finishing the work.

  3. David Corbett

    Living in the Now doesn't truly exist. Our minds are biologically wired to both anticipate and remember at any given moment, so we are never free of the future or the past. The phrase, "living in the moment," is a term we give to the attempt to not dwell so much on the past, or worry so much about the future.

    So there's no contradiction between setting a goal/focusing on achieving it and "living in the moment."

    Just as there is no contradiction between examining the past to better understand our behavior so we are not trapped in unconscious habits and can better "live in the moment."

    Or so I tell myself when no one's around.

    Contests are ego strokes and little more, but sometimes getting the ego stroked ain't such a bad thing. As long as you don't let it define you.

  4. Pari Noskin

    Oh, David,
    What would Ram Dass say 😉

    I almost agree on the no Now idea, but I've hit moments when I've been in the flow — writing, making art, meditating — and it's an entirely different experience and doesn't contain past or future, so I think that a person can be fully in the present. Though it doesn't usually lost for long with me.

    Analysis of past mistakes to learn and to avoid future mishaps are admirable attempts, though I think for many, it's more of an excuse to dwell in those moments rather than moving forward. Of course, my current perspective might be a little biased in that regard given the massive introspection within which I continue to live.

    And contests? I think you nailed it.

  5. Allison Davis

    We'll work on David's meditation techniques.

    I recently entered a contest just to make myself meet a writing deadline. That was the sole goal. Just finish something and get it in. Start collecting rejections. When I received the acknowledgement that my entry was there and sent off to the editors, it wasn't "the call" as Alex describes it, but it was something. It was proof that I could finish something and get it entered. I needed to do that to go back to the book, which is daunting but almost finished.

    Stillness is the "now" for me…getting to a place where I shrug off the anxiety of the shoulds and whats to come, and let go of the past stuff I did or didn't do and be still. As all good yogis say, it's not easy and you need to "practice" just like in exercise but that is the goal. So it's just a place to rest from your past work and to prepare yourself for the future. It can be five minutes or a week.

    As for judging? Well, I always said I learned more teaching than I did being taught. Maybe judging works the same. I don't know. I am in no position to judge. Ha!

  6. Pari Noskin

    Great to hear from you. I like your version of the now. That stillness is such a cherished experience. I am grateful that I have time alone now, if for nothing more than being quiet (which, btw, is why I often don't turn on the computer when I come home from work).

    Contests do force one to conform to rules, meet deadlines, define and, ultimately, stretch. I'm glad you accomplished your goal of entering and look forward to learning how the process works for you beyond that. I'm also glad that you're close to finishing your book. That's wonderful news.

    And judging? I'm enjoying the process. I always do.

  7. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Pari, Sorry to come late to this. Writing contests? Hmm, I haven't entered any, so I'm not sure I can answer that. I've been nominated for a few awards, but been always the bridesmaid never the bride <sigh> Still, being nominated is an honour in itself – honestly. Having been an observer for quite a few judging panels were award winners were chosen, it's so often a compromise decision that making the shortlist can be more meaningful.

    As for the Super Bowl, I found this fascinating article about the seedier side of the event, and now I don't think I will ever be able to look at it in the same light again:

  8. PD Martin

    Hi Pari. I find the goal-setting and living in the present particularly relevant at the moment. I'm constantly setting goals and looking forward. It's part of my make-up.

    When I read this, I was like 'Oh, I'm terrible in terms of NOT living in the now.' And then I read David's comment and felt like I was off the hook! Thanks, David 🙂

Comments are closed.