When I was 8 our art teacher told us to paint the sky.
I started a poster paint wish-wash of greys just like the view outside the window and (in my memory) it was looking pretty good.
But then I looked around. All the other children at my table were painting a solid block of blue with round yellow suns and fluffy white clouds.
“Oh no,” I thought. “I’ve done it wrong.”
So I painted over my dishwater sky for one that blended in with everyone else’s.
Sometimes, usually when I’ve not made it on yet another competition, I wonder if I have the wrong ‘voice’ for competitions. I catch myself thinking that perhaps I should adjust my style.
But then I remember how often I wished that I hadn’t changed that picture, that I’d stuck with my original vision.
Conforming to something more generic may feel safer but there’s the danger of blending in too much.
Perhaps I’ve been entering the wrong sort of competitions. Probably I just need more practice. (Maybe I should stop messing around with short stories and concentrate on the novels. But I like being able to experiment with short stories and I think they are good practice for tightening up on techniques).
I have to remind myself that my voice is me. It’s who I am and it’s the stories I write. They may need some polishing, but I have to stand up and let my voice be heard, for better or worse.
I don’t want to have any regrets.