Some people aspire to achieve greatness, to be the best and the brightest of their generation. I am not some people.
I don’t have an amusing childhood anecdote about awards. I can’t tell you that I’ve been harboring a dream of winning some highfalutin honour that would bring me the respect and riches I so desire. As a creative person, I should possess a smidge of ambition to garner some form of prestigious recognition for my work. How else will the world know how great I am? Well. I’m not, really. I am not the best at anything. I have no delusions of being the Wittiest, Prettiest, Most Perfect Thing Ever. Do I need some contest to confirm what I already know to be true?
The trouble is that in order to be considered for an award, I would first need to enter a competition. I am not competitive. Oh, I used to be when I was younger. But it was unbecoming and made me behave in most unladylike fashions. And I lost. Often. Many a board game was upended. Many a video game control thrown onto the floor. Curses everywhere. So I do my best these days to remove myself from most potentially competitive environments. I cannot resist the siren song of the shaking Boggle cube.
Even if I could muster up a healthy dose of good sportsmanship, competitions still have two deterrents: entry fees and submission guidelines. So many writing and design competitions have ridiculous entry fees. Let’s see, would I rather pay $50 for the slim chance that someone will view my work and form some sort of opinion about it or buy groceries? At least food doesn’t judge my work and make me feel like I’ve made horrible mistakes in my career choices. Maybe it’s just to weed out the riff-raff and hacks, but it always feels like the organization sponsoring the competition is saying, “If you were really serious about your work, you wouldn’t blink an eye at paying this entry fee. But I guess you’re not a serious artist.” No, I am a starving artist. Or I would be if I paid you $50.
Then there are the submission guidelines—the arbitrary criteria agreed upon by a committee which may or may not possess any relevant creative experience to draw from in setting competition requirements. After spending most of my life not quite meeting society’s standards, I find that I also do not meet the criteria for these competitions. There’s not much demand for Caucasian women who write plays about anthropomorphic shampoo bottles, poetry about kitchen appliances, or squiggly robots donning silly hats and sipping martinis. My work lacks the edge and emotional grit that judges are looking for. Perhaps if the shampoo bottle were used in a graphic sexually violent act, I might stand a chance as third runner-up. As it stands, I just don’t tick a lot of boxes. Sure, I could create work specifically for a competition. That could also turn into a lot of spec work that never sees the light of day. And that’s time that could be spent drawing robots or writing a sitcom about whimsical USB devices.
Winning is not a life goal of mine. That isn’t to say that I would refuse an award if offered. On the contrary, I would snatch it up, clutch it to my non-existent bosom and scamper off into the KatCave. Where then I would discover that, once again, my name had been misspelled. Such is the life of a Katharine.
The goal of this Katharine is to amuse people with her silliness. Every positive email or review I get from a random stranger about my book, that’s my reward. Whenever I’ve got my little table of crafts and someone giggles at Boris in a funny hat, that does so much more for my pessimistic little soul than any foil-stamped parchment ever could. I don’t make things to withstand the harsh criticism of my peers. I make things to get away from the stress of life, to create a tiny oasis of joy that someone can carry with them and gaze upon and say, “Tee hee.”