So participating this week in the Show Your Voice Blogfest and trying to get into March's Secret Agent Contest at MissSnarksFirstVictim (didn't make it this morning but I'll try again this afternoon), it had me thinking about the nature of camaraderie versus competition.
The thing is, going through the other entries in the blogfest (and I've made it through maybe thirty so far with about ninety left to go, haha), and in past secret agent contests, I'm astounded by the level of talent in everyone else's writing. There are a lot of REALLY FREAKING GOOD manuscripts out there being shopped to agents and aimed towards publication. So many of the resources we use when researching agents and publishing trends make it look like a numbers game. We find our dream agent and then we go to query tracker and we see how many queries they request partials on, and how many they reject, how often they request a full, and how they maybe only sign one or two new clients a year now. And with all that in mind, writing towards publication is a very competitive field. No, its not a zero sum game. Most agents and publishers don't have a quota cutoff -I'll sign this many clients and then ABSOLUTELY NO MORE EVER!!!! - good writing is good writing, and an agent isn't going to pass on a manuscript that absolutely bowls them over just because they signed someone the night before. But that doesn't change the fact that every time we read on our dream agent's blog that they just signed a new client, our heart sinks a little because it seems our chances just took a hit.
(And ps, its totally okay if you're reading this and shaking your head as in 'no, I don't agree at all.' Remember, I use the royal we a lot. I could just be talking about me and my multiple personalities here. Err, I mean pen names.)
So what's got me ruminating today is how none of this runs through my head when I'm reading the other entries in these contests. And that's weird right? It should be the opposite - why be intimidated by faceless statistics instead of the contest with clear parameters and set winners and going up against writing that you can see and read and consider to be REALLY FREAKING GOOD?
The answer of course is obvious - there's something that trumps the sense of competition and winner versus loser that pervades writing contests and blogfests, and that's camaraderie. Its precisely because the other entries AREN'T faceless statistics, but aspiring writers struggling through the same ups and downs we are, someone we can identify with. How many of us pick books off the shelves at Barnes and Noble and put it back after flipping through just a couple of pages thinking god that's awful, and how did they get published when I still can't find an agent? Come on. It happens. And compared to that, when we see people we identify with showing writing we like and even fall in love with - wouldn't we rather see their books on the shelves on Barnes and Noble? So we can think to ourselves, well I may not be published yet, but at least I feel this person deserves it.
I'm not sure I've entirely nailed why I feel this way and if my reasoning is sound here, but it definitely is an interesting phenomena I've noticed before, and not just in the writing world. For those new to my blog, I'm an actor as well as a writer, and its the same thing there. Acting is a HIGHLY competitive business, there's a finite number of PAYING roles in today's industry, given the poor economy, tight budgets, and high concentration of actors in LA. And its a much smaller industry than most people realize. Pretty much everyone in Hollywood at any level of the 'game' knows each other or has met each other in some capacity or another. People move from one set to another with such regularity that the joke is everyone in Hollywood has their own version of 'Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon' connecting them to each other - only its more like two degrees rather than six.
Actors on a similar 'level' tend to get sent out on the same auditions too. Our agents get a breakdown of available roles to submit us for, and we're submitted pretty much solely on physical characteristics. If a role is looking for someone matching my look or type, I'm getting sent out on that audition. So inevitably, there's a circle of actors who match my type or look who are all ending up at the same auditions as me, time after time. We all know each others' names, we kill time outside the audition rooms catching up with what's going on with each other even though the only times we ever see each other is when we're competing for a role. We have a very weird kind of friendship that is predicated entirely on our competition - we wouldn't even know each other if it weren't for these occasions of going out for the same job, essentially, and yet its almost a relief in a way to get to an audition and see the same four or five faces there. Its like, okay, I may not get this role, but hopefully it'll instead go to one of these guys I like and know to be talented. I've beaten Rob out for the past three roles we both auditioned for, but he beat me out for the one movie role I really wanted - but there's no resentment on either of our parts because competition becomes an entirely different animal when you're confident your rival is worthy of the win.
Honestly, I'm not really sure what my point is with this post or if I even have one, it just seemed an interesting topic worth devoting a little thought to. What say you all? Any thoughts? Personal anecdotes? Drink recipes?