Is it Discipline or Discouragement?

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When used correctly, crates and exercise pens are very handy tools for dog training. Like a child’s playpen, they can be overused, or used for the wrong reasons, but they are invaluable when it comes to having a safe place to contain a puppy and avoid the havoc he could wreak when left untended.

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Yes, he’d rather be outside romping with the children, tromping unfettered through the gardens, or chasing birds through the meadow and scampering down the driveway to the road, but for his safety and my sanity he can’t be allowed that kind of freedom.

As wistful as he may look in these photos, he doesn’t spend all of his confinement grumbling about it.

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He snoozes, plays, and observes what’s going on — and dances with anticipation when one of us approaches with his leash. That means there’s a training time coming, complete with praise and snacks, and followed by a walk with opportunities for lots of exploration. It’s all part of the discipline associated with a puppy’s education (and in the early stages, of housebreaking).

I was writing a short story the afternoon I stopped to take these inside photos of our new puppy. When I later reviewed one of the shots, his expression seemed like one of reprimand. “How come you won’t take me outside if you’re not really working?”

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Why was I so easily distracted? Was it lack of discipline or something else? I have to admit it was more a matter of discouragement. I have three pieces to write this summer, each with a deadline. The one with the closest deadline is for a contest I enter every year, and it’s giving me the most trouble.

I’ve had a breakthrough, though. I recalled the definition of insanity attributed to Albert Einstein — that it’s doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. While my early entries in this particular contest were shortlisted a few times, they never won, and more recently they haven’t caught anyone’s attention. The same two people have been judging the fiction category every year for more than a decade, and I’ve realized that if they haven’t rewarded my writing before, it’s probably ‘insane’ to think they ever will. The contest is sponsored by a very reputable group and there’s great prize money, but no feedback is provided, no critique. You either win, or you don’t. I don’t, and I’ve finally concluded I’m wasting my time, energy and entry fees!

The revelation is freeing. I finished a different article and submitted it today, well ahead of when I’d planned. The remaining one is drafted and I have a month to work on its edits. I have time to go romp with the dog! Woo hoo! So much for my self-discipline. 🙂

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How do you view writing contests? Do you enter many? Have you ever won?

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4 thoughts on “Is it Discipline or Discouragement?

  1. Jenn Hubbard says:

    I used to enter more. I rarely bother nowadays. The only ones I ever won were at a local writers’ conference. I did get a couple of honorable mentions or encouraging notes once or twice, but mostly it was like throwing check and manuscript down a dark hole.
    Many small magazines do fund their operations this way, though, the publishing of poetry and short fiction not being particularly lucrative. I don’t begrudge them that, if they also have open reading periods.

    • Carol says:

      I suppose there is also something positive to be gained in learning to follow submission guidelines and deal with deadlines, but they aren’t areas of weakness for me anyway.

  2. Look at that face! I’d be the wrong mum for that beautiful puppy. He’d end up spoiled and I’d feel bad. My cats own our place for that reason. I don’t enter anything, mostly because I’m too lazy to force my brain. And because I’m constantly toughening up my ego, I avoid anything that undermines my efforts.

  3. Shari Green says:

    Love that sweet face!

    I rarely enter contests anymore, but every now and then (say, early September each year?;) ) I find it helpful to challenge myself to write a short story, a change from my usual novel-length work. Not being under contract for anything, I mostly write “when I feel like it”, and for me, it’s a good exercise to wait ’til the last minute and then push myself to write a contest piece, whether I feel inspired or not. However, I think there’s definitely something to be said for having the wisdom to set aside projects that aren’t serving our long-term goals or that we simply find no joy in working on. Time is precious. And besides, creativity should be fun!

    Congrats on finishing your article. 🙂

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