The Taste of Disappointment

It’s so easy to use blogging and facebook to share only successes and triumphs. In some ways, they give a skewed view of life. Only good things happen. Trails of glory follow in our wake. Life is an unending list of 🙂 😉 🙂 😉  

Of course, we know failure and disappointment. We’ve all met them along the way – they’re success and triumph’s evil twins after all, and we’ve all been victims of the hurt and bitterness they like to inflict.  But it’s so much easier not to acknowledge them. To keep them locked in the cupboard. Only allow them out when they’ve promised to behave and smile like success and triumph. 

But I thought I’d share a failure with you.  Let the monster out of the cupboard and hope the light will shrivel it.

Okay – it’s not a huge failure. Nothing awful happened. Nobody died – as they say. But I failed where I longed for success and the disappointment hurts. Get on with it I can hear you saying. Just say what’s happened and then we can all get back to happyland.

So, I heard yesterday evening that my flash-fiction ‘Errol’s Eyebrows’ is not one of the ten winners in the Fish Publishing flash competition. It reached the shortlist (and yes, I know that’s a great achievement) but that gave me hope it might, just might, be one of the winners.

I’ve wanted to be successful in a Fish competition for a long time. They run short story, poetry and, now flash fiction, competitions every year, and they are big and prestigious with thousands of entries from all over the world. The prize money is huge and the winners are invited to the West Cork Literary Festival in July, as well as being published in the anthology. Three of my short stories have previously reached the longlist with Fish, but with Errol and his wretched eyebrows, I had a glimpse of fulfilling my dream.

Then, yesterday, I received the email – you didn’t make it.

End of … but not quite!

I also wanted to share with you the email correspondence I’ve had with Clem Cairns, the manager and editor at Fish Publishing:

Erroll’s Eyebrows didn’t make it to the last ten. Sorry. Just got the results half an hour ago. Clem

Thanks for letting me know. I’m very disappointed, but nice to have the dream for a short time! Lindsay

Tis a bloody tough choice being a writer. My heart goes out to you. Just as it is lovely, and rewarding, telling (the few) writers that their work has made it, it is equally awful telling the ones who didn’t make it. Please don’t be discouraged, but keep trying and hopefully enjoying it. Clem

Thanks for this nice email. Really appreciate it. I’ve had quite a lot of success so far this year, so I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself, but Fish holds some magic for me. I’ve made the short story longlist a couple of times (one of those might have been the shortlist before you changed how you did it) but never quite made it. But I’ll keep trying! Lindsay

Have to say, you are one of the relatively few people who have made me feel OK for giving them bad news. Thanks. Its big of you. Clem 

The emails haven’t quite taken away the disappointment, but they’ve certainly helped! Thank you, Clem!

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  1. There are some good folk around and you’ve found one of them in Clem, Lindsay.
    I am so sorry you’re disappointed, it’s a hateful feeling. Bravo for writing about it!
    Next time ‘eh? xx

  2. Lindsay says:

    Thanks for the commiseration, Polly. I am disappointed but ever onward – and it helps to write about it. I was impressed with Clem – he didn’t have to bother like that. And I’ve written another 1000 words of my new novel today, so I’m not totally crushed by it!

  3. Robin Heaney says:

    Essex turned down Jack Hobbs.
    Decca turned down the Beatles.
    Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto was rubbished by a critic who said it was ‘music that stinks in the ear’.
    Tolstoy thought that King Lear was rubbish.
    A contemporary of Beethoven’s said of the 7th symphony ‘He must have been drunk when he wrote it.’

  4. Lindsay says:

    Thanks, Robin, both for making me smile and for connecting me – however remotely – with those other greats. I’m sort of assuming Jack Hobbs is/was great!

  5. Mo Hall says:

    Never mind Lindsay. It takes enormous courage to be a writer. Writers are constantly sticking their heads into the frame, waiting for the coconuts to be thrown. You’ve got loads of courage and drive – and at least you are getting more successes than coconuts! Thanks for sharing this – it just shows how tough this writing business is.

  6. Lindsay says:

    Thanks for your kind comments, Mo. I appreciate it!

  7. Christine says:

    First of all, thank you for posting this as it take courage to tell everyone who cares to listen that you haven’t been successful in something. As you say, if you only post your successes then it can give a skewed version of your writing. Secondly, it’s great that it hurts as much as it does because it means that you really care. If you lost that, then maybe the fire would go out of your writing, it would become something of a task rather than a passion. Thirdly, your story must have fulfilled all of the criteria the judge was looking for – perfect grammar (naturally), a beginning, middle of end (of course) and it had something to say. But at the end of the day, the judging process is subjective. Just because yours didn’t win, doesn’t mean that those that did were better, only that they were different. And in those differences may have been something that resonated with the judge or for some other reason, he or she preferred. On another day, with another judge, Eroll’s Eyebrows would have won. So, don’t beat yourself up, have faith in your writing (I do) and carry on doing what you do so well.

  8. Lindsay says:

    Christine, thank you so much for your lovely supportive words. They mean a lot!

  9. Jane says:

    You need the lows to appreciate the highs, to stop us becoming complacent and keep striving to be better. You will have more highs, i’m sure of it xx

  10. Lindsay says:

    Thanks, Jane. I know you’re right.

  11. elly says:

    I’m glad you posted about this. And p.s. congratulations.

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