I actually had four months to complete and submit an entry to the MPH-Alliance Bank National Short Story Competition. Instead of doing just that, I ended-up using the four months I had to royally screw it all up. Here are the lessons I learnt:
First of all, only idiots (like me) would leave writing their entries to the last minute. Doing this will leave you very little room to proof-read and edit the entry. As I painfully discovered, you need a mighty large time window in which to do this. Strapped with a small time frame, and impeded by lack of sleep (because you stayed up all night finishing the draft), it is unlikely that you’ll do a good job of proof-reading and editing your entry. And I discovered first-hand that under these conditions you will – as sure as your credit card bills will come in at the end of the month – botch the whole damned thing up.
After I had printed, bound and submitted my entry, I decided to re-read the copy of my entry that was on my computer. Lo and behold, there were whole tracts of typo, grammatical and contextual mistakes – and there was precious little I could do about it now! Make no mistake: leaving things to the very last minute guarantees poor (if not disastrous) proof-reading and editing. This, in turn, will ensure that you hand in a sorry, half-assed excuse of an entry. I hate reading sloppily prepared documents – and it is almost a certainty that the judges will, too.
On an even more unflattering note, I also discovered that I don’t necessarily follow the very same advice I give others when they (yes, there are those who do) ask me about how to write. When asked, I would usually prattle on about something called mushin: to live the moment and not be too bothered about winning or losing, life or death, failure or success, victory or defeat, etc. In other words, to just let the body (and mind) do what it needs to do – and not give a damn about the results. This is sound advice. The catch is, you’ve got to actually follow it.
It is now plainly obvious to me that I have stupidly ignored and overlooked my own advice. As a result, over the past four months, I have struggled with the very same considerations I tell people to ignore. Not very smart, eh? This pre-occupation with the outcome of the competition had led to me delay writing my story and only start it when it was already far too late.
Its not that my entry would have had much of a chance anyway. But because of my own stupidity, its chances are even slimmer now.
So, if you see a comical guy furiously kicking himself whenever you are in Kelana Jaya in the next few days, please say “Hello!”: chances are its going to be me.