Quick disclaimer: as evidenced by the flyer above, Side B Magazine is hosting a writing contest. We’re working with The Drum Literary Magazine to pick the strongest fiction submissions to both magazines during the month of June. The chosen submission will be printed in the next issue of Side B, as well as published by The Drum as an audio piece. If you haven’t submitted, please do! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or use submishmash. Further instructions are provided in our submissions page. If you do not want to be considered for the contest, but would still like to submit to our next issue, please let us know. Likewise, poetry, art, and other non-fiction pieces will not be considered.
There now. Having said this, there’s been some talk lately about famous literary feuds and though most of us are neither Fitzgerald nor Hemingway, I think it’s interesting to think about how the spirit of competition is alive and well in a field that shouldn’t, for the most part, be a cut-throat sport (for the purposes of this post, I’ll ignore ideological feuds, and simply discuss chest-thrusting, hey-biatches-my-work-is-better-than-yours, literary fights).
I mean, people will be people, and they’ll try to show each other up in any arena. I wouldn’t argue that competition is a bad thing – I can’t, without being a bleeding hypocrite. In fact, I think competition can be a very positive force in anyone’s career and self-esteem building process. People excel at that in which they get positive reinforcement – the child told at a young age that their drawing is good is likelier to continue drawing than the one that is actively discouraged. And we continue to seek affirmation as we grow. One day, you’re vying for a college writing contest, and the next, you’re trying to become the next McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies columnist. This is normal and good.
But it’s important not to tear other people down while you’re building yourself up. Yes, yes, I know! You know this! All of us here are grown (or almost grown) individuals on the cusp of fame and fortune – and we’re not petty. No, we’re never petty.
Actually, we’re sometimes petty, myself included. Let’s try to be better.
Here’s a good letter about literary competition – and here’s my question to you. What do you make of this quote?
Could it be possible that the reason you feel like you swallowed a spoonful of battery acid every time someone else gets what you want is because a long time ago—way back in your own very beginnings—you were sold a bill of goods about the relationship between money and success, fame and authenticity, legitimacy and adulation?
Yes, this is a specific question, and that I picked this quotation out of the entire letter speaks more about me than it does about Sugar, the letter writer, other Rumpus readers, or anyone reading this post. But work with me here! I’m trying to make a point about what drives competition – the need for self-affirmation, among them – and the results of this competition. Or no, I’m not making a point at all. I guess I’m just sleepily typing out some half-formed thoughts, and throwing them out there.
What do you think? Does Sugar have a point, and if she does, then what does this mean (in general but also in relation to the original letter she received)?