I Was Honored by a Top Magazine — Here’s Why I Was Upset

Navigating the ups and downs of a writing career

Emmeline Chang
Sep 4, 2019 · 4 min read
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Photo by Pixabay via Pexels

Celebration: One of my stories got an Honorable Mention in a Glimmer Train contest.

Confession: My first reaction was disappointment. “Oh, I didn’t win.”

(It’s a really good story, and I wanted to win first place!!)

There’s some learning here, of course. :-)

When you have a big dream, does this happen?

I have big visions. I want big things in my life. Sometimes I want so much, the dream gets intimidating, and it’s hard to take a first small step. Does this happen to you?

You dream of writing a novel that shakes open the way people look at life — AND wins all the big prizes and sells like crazy. Or making the movie that breaks out at Sundance and becomes a multi-million dollar box office hit.

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Photo by Amar Adestiempo via Unsplash

Sometimes I want so much, the dream gets intimidating, and it’s hard to take a first small step.

Then when you sit down to work, the WEIGHT of those desires is pressing on you. The tension is too much, so (just for a moment!) you click away to check your email.

From there, you know the story: You quickly take care of one thing, then another. (You’re a highly competent person who takes action, after all!) You take a moment to check The New York Times. You send an article to someone.

Before you know it, you’ve gone down a hole and your momentum is gone, your creative energy drained.

There’s a connection between this and my story of subtle disappointment.

The danger of big ambition

Often, with the the big dream comes the big creative block. After all, if nothing but big success is good enough for you, that’s a lot of pressure on your creative work.

That pressure makes it hard to actually do your creative work. (Ask me how I know!)

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Photo by Amar Adestiempo via Unsplash

This doesn’t mean you give up the big vision. I champion ambition and hold the vision of success for myself and my clients. And those successes are there: agents, exhibits, The New Yorker publications, Emmy awards, money…

However… Between you and the multi-million dollar, Nobel-prize winning career, there are a few steps. :-)

They’re not rocket science. They’re just simple steps on the path, like putting one foot in front of another.

Ease up on the pressure and expectations.

Do your work.

Expect some failure. Know it’s part of the process — and a valuable source of information.

Celebrate every small success.

Between you and the multi-million dollar, Nobel-prize winning career, there are a few steps… simple steps on the path, like putting one foot in front of another.

Let yourself feel the ups and downs.

Love the adventure like it’s the most exhilarating roller coaster in the world.

And give yourself and your creative work so much love.

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Emmeline Chang (photo by Levi Stolove)

Want more teachings and support for your creative work? Join the Artist in Action Facebook group!

Emmeline Chang is writer, coach, and creative mentor who helps artists do their truest creative work and succeed in their careers. Her clients have made dramatic career leaps: finding agents, winning awards, publishing regularly in The New Yorker, being featured in the Tribeca Film Festival, and more.

Emmeline has led a copywriting team at a Madison Avenue ad agency, run a successful writing business, and taught fiction and nonfiction at well-known NYC writing schools and workshops. She graduated from Princeton University, has an MFA in writing from Columbia University, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and two sons. Her website is www.emmelinechang.com.

All photos in this article are Creative Commons-licensed or are owned by/legally licensed for use by Emmeline Chang.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness and fulfillment.

Emmeline Chang

Written by

Writer/ creative mentor helping artists succeed. www.emmelinechang.com Get success tips delivered to your inbox: http://bit.ly/2YhkmHZ (she/her)

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join thousands of others making the climb on Medium.

Emmeline Chang

Written by

Writer/ creative mentor helping artists succeed. www.emmelinechang.com Get success tips delivered to your inbox: http://bit.ly/2YhkmHZ (she/her)

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join thousands of others making the climb on Medium.

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