Member Rara Avis
But life doesn't work that way, we can't be winners all the time.
I'm not so sure about that.
People who are willing to put their dreams in the spotlight, for everyone to see and judge, are obviously taking a risk. They are opening themselves to the very real potential of being hurt. I think that every single person who has posted a poem in these forums, whether for this book or just to share with friends, has to already know that feeling. Will others like it? What if I'm ignored? Will anyone understand? I honestly can't count the number of people who have written me to admit they had never before posted their poetry in public, never before shared it with another human being. It was only their discovery of this community, which is probably the most supportive group of people in the world, that gave them the courage to take that risk. In finding pipTalk, they found other writers who would accept them for what they were. Not the best writer in the world. Not the worst, either. Just someone willing to learn and eager to share. With those two qualities, in my opinion, no one can ever be a loser.
Being a winner isn't about succeeding. It's about trying, and then continuing to try even when faced with disappointment. I doubt there is a human being in history, from Abraham Lincoln to Tiger Woods, who has succeeded every time in everything they do. How many children emerge from their mother's womb knowing how to walk? Nada. Zip. Zilch. We all had to learn how to walk, and every single one of us did it the same way. By falling down. And, yea. Sometimes, falling down hurts.
Writing, I think, is a lot like running a marathon. There are always going to be the front-runners, the Stephen Kings, the John Updikes, the Kit McCallums and the Michael Macks. Crossing the finish line first, or near-first, requires a heady mix of innate talent, long years of hard work, and (I think) an unwavering love for what you do. Not everyone can be the first to cross the finish line. And I'm really sorry, but not everyone deserves to be the first either. Those who make that trip have paid a price for the privilege. With hard work. And with a whole lot of earlier disappointments getting there. They, too, learned to walk by falling down.
Not everyone is the first to cross the finish line. But if you talk to almost anyone who has ever run a long-distance race, they will tell you that finishing first was never their goal. Sure, it would be nice. But what inspired them to put on their running shoes, what drove them to endure pain and exhaustion and three days of near-total bed rest afterwards, was the simple dream of finishing. First, last, or somewhere in between, they just wanted to finish the race. Runners know that being able to say, "I ran the L.A. Marathon" makes them just as much a winner as the guy who broke five world records. They don't need to be first. They do want to be counted.
Reflections on the Web, like our earlier forum book, Voices on the Web, is both a part of our community and a marathon-line extension of that community.
It's a part of the community in the sense that everyone involved should be able to expect the same support they find everywhere else at pipTalk. To me, it's very clear from the 8,000-plus votes and comments and today's congratulatory messages that their expectations of support have not been ignored. This very thread and BluesSerenade's concerns are further proof of that. It's also a part of the community in the sense that those most willing to give will always be the ones most likely to receive. It takes more than simply posting a poem to be part of this community, and it takes more than simply checking the Book Flag to be part of Reflections.
I hope we will also discover, as time goes by, that Reflections is part of this community in the sense that we don't like to leave people behind. I don't have a crystal ball, and I'm quick to admit this book is shaping itself very differently from our last, but I can tell you what happened two years ago with Voices. As we neared the deadline, many of those who had not yet received enough votes were offered help from others with more experience. Untitled poems were given titles. Raucous spelling errors were corrected. Themes became more focused, metaphors more powerful. Those who really wanted to be in the book were given the opportunity to make it happen. Because we really don't like leaving people behind.
Yet, in the end, though part of our community, Reflections is also a marathon-like extension of the community, and it's going to take more than just entering the race to make it across the finish line. It's okay to want to be first, to be the one with the highest ranking poem, but when push comes to shove, there's only going to be one of those. And when a reader picks up the book and thumbs through the pages, we hope enraptured with the beauty they find within, she isn't going to have a single clue which poem received the most votes. First Round or Fifth, every page of Reflections will be equal. No one has to win this race. You just have to finish it. You just have to be counted.
And those who can't cross the finish line? Who don't make it into the book?
In my opinion, that doesn't even need to happen. Anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort and really cares will, with the support of THIS community, be able to get enough votes to qualify. Realistically, though, I know that what doesn't need to happen nonetheless will happen. Grossly misspelled poetry isn't popular. Words quickly typed directly into the Posting form like seeds thrown wildly into the wind will only rarely sprout. Writers who would rather call their work "Untitled" than spend a few hours agonizing over the perfect title will pay the price. Not everyone will cross the finish line.
Even those who don't finish the race, however, can still be winners. Winning isn't about having the highest ranked poem, isn't about making the First Round, and isn't even about ultimately getting a poem in the book. Winning is about trying. And continuing to try even in the face of sometimes bitter disappointment. The poem that didn't make it into Reflections won't be the author's last poem, and the winners among us will make sure their next poem is better. And just as that poem won't be their last poem, this book won't be our last book. Those who are willing to try, and to continue trying, will always find new opportunities to succeed.
Having the highest ranked poem is a goal. Making the First Round, or the Second or Third, is a goal. Publication is a goal. All of those are worthy goals, even lofty goals. But none of those will make you a winner, because winning has never been a goal.
Winning is a choice.