Friday, February 24, 2012

Long Shots

If you keep your eyes and ears open, you'll probably find that life is full of amazing and wonderful opportunities. The art of writing is no exception- contests, submission calls, grants and workshops abound, many of which can help a writer become stronger at their craft. Of course, if you have the least bit of a skeptical nature, as I do, you'll quickly realize just how unlikely some of the opportunities are to ever happen.

I'm fairly diligent about looking for new markets and ideas, but when I come across a prospect that's a complete long shot, I often wonder whether I should even bother trying. To be honest, more often than not, I don't even try. Instead, like many people, I resign myself to the fact that the opportunity is out of my league, and I should probably just concentrate on smaller pieces of pie.

The thing is, I've been feeling hungry for a bigger slice. I've been reading helpful how-to articles for writers, subscribing to lists, and taking writing challenges for some time, and I keep seeing a similar piece of advice. The idea is that at some point, you need to just go for it.

In my late night internet reading, I came across an online writing program through UCLA extension that seemed perfect. The variety and focus of the classes, the experience of the instructors, and the fact that I could take classes online and fit them in my life seemed like an ideal match. My practical dream squelching side kicked in fairly quickly, and I looked at the cost. My excitement began to wither. I continued to browse the site, albeit feeling somewhat defeated. 

As I looked around though, an opportunity presented itself. There were ten scholarships available for the writing program this year. If ever there was a total long shot, this was it- I mean, this is a program through UCLA. I would think there would be some serious competition, and I'm a small scale mama writer living 
in the hills. The odds of my winning seemed very, very small.

But, I decided that all of these helpful how-to gurus might be on to something. I decided to just go for it. Yes, it was a long shot, and very unlikely, but the worst they could do was tell me was no.

I procrastinated on writing the required essays until a few days before the application was due, but when I wrote, I tried to speak from my heart about how much the program would mean to me. I gave it my best shot, and sent the packet off into the universe with my hopes and wishes.

Weeks passed and I had not thought much more about it, until one afternoon when an email came in my box...."We are pleased to let 
you know ...."

I had to reread it at least six times to make sure it was true before I could celebrate. I simply couldn't believe that I was actually awarded one of the ten scholarships. My long shot had paid off.

The reality is that I have no idea how many people applied or what the actual odds were in this opportunity, but I had certainly perceived that they were stacked against me. Had I listened to my practical side and not decided to just go for it anyway, I would never have won the scholarship, and I wouldn't be in the midst of classes now.

I know not every long shot will pay off. Not every one will even be worth the effort involved, but if you're feeling up for whatever an opportunity is, don't let the odds discourage you. If you never reach for that bigger piece of pie, you'll be stuck with the tiny portions forever.

****This article was recently published in the Funds For Writers Newsletter, and was another long shot that paid off. You can check it out here.