After doing this post for my contest club's blog, I found that there are a lot of lessons here that can be applied to things other than contest entering, like finding an agent or even making the day job not suck so much. Choose your favourite option where applicable and enjoy:

Okay folks, there's been a lot of bellyaching and moaning about not being able to find time for contesting/writing/sleeping at your desk or complaining because the prizes just aren't coming your way/your boss is butt-ugly/Zac Efron doesn't know you're alive. And now it's time for me to slap y'all upside the head.

Dry spells happen -- it's a fact. I even remember a very dark time back in '93 when the only thing I'd won in a six-month period was a Pillsbury Doughboy watch that giggled every hour on the hour and I couldn't figure out how to make it stop/I sent 17 letters to the editor and none were published/I threatened my boss with a pair of scissors and he still didn't fire me.

Yeah, I still shudder at the thought.

It's okay to feel like crud when your name is nowhere near a winner's list/book contract/email from Zac Efron, but what's not okay is to keep doing things the same way and expect to get different results. We have to be innovative, people. Start thinking outside the ballot box/genre/cubicle.

Here are just a few tactics you might want to try:

1. Change your contest-entering/writing/work arrival time. Some people have experienced groovy wins/received book contracts/earned raises by getting up super-early and beating the rush.

2. Go after those hard-to-enter contests/top-pick agents/red staplers. Contest example: Write that darn essay or take a photo of your pet walrus. Homemakers Magazine recently held a contest where you had to submit a story of at least 500 words in order to enter. While they received thousands upon thousands of entries, only 700 people included a story. And those were the entries they chose the winner from.

Agent example: The worst thing that could happen if you approach the agent of your dreams is that they'll turn you down. But even worse than that is if you never approached said agent in the first place: then they won't even know about you or your kick-ass novel.

Red stapler example: Go watch Office Space, then you'll know.

3. Focus. Contest example: If you enter everything, you might "waste a win" (it's still my favourite phrase in the world, thanks to Donna). By focusing on entering the contests you're excited about winning, you're putting out those positive "universe-attracting" vibes, and you'll end up winning something you value instead of a Chia Pet or nose-hair trimmer.

Agent example: If you query everyone, you might "waste an offer" and end up with an agent you've never heard of before who, horror of horrors, uses a nose-hair trimmer while reviewing manuscripts or requests a reading fee. And that's not cool on any level.

Red stapler example: He focused and made sure those who took his stapler paid for it, big time.

4. Reverse the order. If you have a certain way of entering contests/finding your muse/eating chocolate-creme donuts, why not work your way at it from another angle? Or if you always enter daily contests/use crack cocaine/part your hair down the middle, why not try a different approach?

And finally...

5. Attract positive vibes. Flip through your happy file, binder, folder, wherever you keep your winning mementos/encouraging notes from others/pay stubs. I keep all my stuff in a folder labelled "HAPPY" that I look through every once in a while to remind myself that it can happen. Wins/agents/raises do come eventually. You just have to keep on entering/querying/working.

And if none of these work, then you'll just have to wrap tin foil around your head like the rest of us. ;)

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