Why I Hate Awards Season

Yeah, a new year, and another awards season. I gotta say I hate it. And this year, I swear, I won’t look to see if I’m nominated on Goodreads, or who won at Divine magazine, or anything, anywhere. It’s not good for me. And here’s why, which will no doubt ensure I never win another 🙂

You see, to be a self published author who hasn’t yet attained big time success, to fight against the tide of overwhelming competition for reader eyes and ears, to beat back the disappointments and depressions that hit every time Amazon changes the rules, to ignore every statistic on the likelihood of failure, to watch your latest magnificent creation greeted with public indifference… It requires a certain characteristic, which very few successful writers will admit to out loud. And that characteristic is the absolutely true knowledge that you deserve every prize ever awarded in the history of everything ever.

If you don’t wake up in this business with a Napoleon Complex on Monday, you don’t get out of bed on Tuesday. If you don’t believe that you will someday be worth $400 million, just like Stephen King, forget it. Get a job. Because only massive levels of delusional thinking will keep you swimming against the tide.

Now, let’s qualify that. Lots of people write for fun. For pleasure. To express themselves. We’re not talking about that. We’re talking about doing this for a living. A lot of writers will say, and mean it, “I just want to tell a story and make people happy.” Great! I want to tell stories and make people happy, too. But I do it for a living now. The pressure is on.

In my heart of hearts, I know Muhammad Ali shouted “I am The Greatest!” in his pre-fight press sessions because he had to convince himself. He had to walk into that fight believing it. People didn’t hear that. They heard, “I’m an asshole.” We all know that it’s one of those things you may believe, but it’s not polite to say it out loud.

But, the downside is, when you go into that fight, or that awards competition, all psyched up like that, and you lose…well, you’ve been proven wrong. You aren’t The Greatest.

And what you need to do then is to restart the Delusion Engine. To convince yourself that someone made a mistake, to rebuild your certainty that you ARE The Greatest. So you can get up on Wednesday. And do it all over again.

I used to hate Serena Williams. I used to see her at a press conference after she’d lost a match – lost a match – and she’d shrug and say, basically, I don’t care, I’m still #1, I’m still the greatest. The nerve! I used to think. You just lost!

Now I get it. You have to do that to keep going. You have to have what people said Steve Jobs had: a “reality distortion field” that simply did not accept facts that interfered with what he wanted to accomplish.

If I’m ever really seriously in the running for a prize, I’ll never put my hand to my fluttering heart and say, my goodness, it’s such a shock, it’s an honor just to be nominated! I’d be lying through my teeth. I know it’s the “right lie to tell,” the lie that helps you win, but still. I can’t do it. I’m not going to raise the trophy over my head and shout “Suck it, beeyotch!” But I’m also not going to pretend I haven’t worked my ass off to deserve it…or deny that in my heart of hearts, I always knew this day would come.

Because only being absolutely sure, every day, that I deserve every prize ever, can I get up the next day and do this again. Without a prize, without another sale, without another review. Again and again and again.

Now, the downside to all this is that, if you’re actually paying attention to the course of events in a prize competition, your delusional thinking can let you convince yourself that oh my god I really am going to win this time! And that is absolutely the worst thing you can do. Instead, you have to put your mind on a tightrope – I deserve every prize ever, and I’m a goddamn fool if I get my hopes up.

See, the problem is, book prizes are completely subjective. Serena and Muhammad can visibly, tangibly prove they were better than their competition. Steve Jobs can beat the pants off every other computer and phone maker and prove he’s better. But there are a million reasons a novelist will or won’t win a prize. Book prizes are about quality, but also about popularity, and controversy (which can hurt or help…), and luck. So they mean everything…and nothing.

My goal is to ignore the whole thing. To award myself every prize ever and close my eyes and refuse to believe that some other people won them. This business runs you through enough cycles of hope and despair without any added worry about whether or not you’re going to win an award.

And now, I’m going to close my eyes, and stand on stage at the Dolby Theater, and I’d like to thank the Academy for this honor… 🙂

13 Comments on Why I Hate Awards Season

  1. Nya Rawlyns // January 3, 2016 at 5:43 am // Reply

    Reblogged this on Love's Last Refuge and commented:
    Brad Vance nails it, again. And kudos for having the cajones to say what many of us think but are, um, too “polite” or shy to voice.
    It’s tough out there.
    Be the armadillo.

    • Thank you 🙂 It’s always a thrill to take a risk and say these things, and hear the echo from other writers that tells me I’m not alone!

  2. I can absolutely see your point. I used to write fanfiction for years (maybe you don’t see it as the same thing) I had a large following. People loved me but every award season I lost… like everything lol
    When I started my blog (which will be 2 years ago this month) the first year I did my tops. This year I did the best of … What I didn’t do, that a lot of place DO do, is I didn’t do a vote. These were all me. My choices based on what I read of books published in 2015. I didn’t have people submit me any books to be entered into anything. I took the 272 books I read last year and that was my pool.
    I know it’s upsetting not to win and to some people it doesn’t matter. Hell, my awards may not matter to some authors because I’m not Goodreads. But some were shocked and some were grateful and some never said a word.
    I appreciate your view on this very much. SO, I thank you for stating it. I hope to get my hands on some of your work this year and toss it into the 2016 pool. Go write me some words!!!!

    • I’m on it! Thanks 🙂

      • I think choosing the books you liked best out of those you reviewed on your blog or elsewhere is a lovely thing to do. If I wasn’t a writer, I might do that myself. I’m far less keen on the larger groups – GR to be specific – putting out huge lists of categories, asking for nominations and then expecting authors to beg for votes. Having fallen foul of a contest like that once – a long story – I won’t beg for votes EVER again. I have NOT looked to see if I’m on any GR list though someone did tell me one of my books was on one. It isn’t that I’m ungrateful for the nomination, I’m flattered, but I have no interest in competing in that very unlevel playing field. One man’s cake is another man’s poison. I am hated and loved. I accept that and always try to put out the best book I can.

  3. This is an excellent blog post – and reflects how I feel about awards in general. I am not a fan of them. I always think the person who should have won the Oscar was robbed lol. Or that the best album didn’t win the Brit that year etc. And as you so rightly say – with anything to do with the arts it is so subjective that there isn’t a way you can say with any certainty that something is ‘the winner’.

    I love how you articulate what it feels like to be a writer, too, and have to big yourself up every day to get up and do this all over again! Thank you 🙂

    • Thank you! I’m always amazed which posts take off and resonate with people. This is getting a lot of positive feedback, which is a prize, too!

  4. And the winner is…………..Brad Vance for honesty. I have always dreamed that someday,some one would actually say these words. “I deserve this! I’m good at what I do”. and Please don’t thank everyone under the sun, when you boil all the sauce down, you are left with what is the heart of the sauce, your work, your hard work.

    I see these awards and don’t know most of the titles even though i read over 125 books last year. So yes, it’s a popularity contest, or the flavor of the month. I secretly think there is one person using many aliases who votes for particular books. because they sit at home all day, don’t have to work and can tally up those votes without putting clothes on. But then I have always been a conspiracy buff. 🙂

  5. amandayoung // January 3, 2016 at 6:55 pm // Reply

    Well said. Couldn’t agree more.

  6. Absolutely! Amen. What I hate is all the blogs hosting their very own “Hooty-Hoots Best of 20(I don’t give a crap what year it is). I mean, really?? Do all these blog sites mean so much that people are drooling to win?

    I guess so because where I come from, I get to hear, “Vote for me! I’ve been nominated for …” And it goes on and on ad nauseam. And I’m also getting sick and tired of hearing, “Oh, look, My book, “I Don’t Give A Rat’s Patooty,” is top something-or-other on Amazon. OMG, I’m so excited.” “Oh, look, I’m now a best-selling author on Amazon.” Okay, and that’s the umpteenth author who’s reached number one in some category and who’s become a best-selling author. About a gazillion of them. With Amazon’s mysterious algorithms, I’d like to know how many books that’s really NOT selling, but you’re made to think they’ve sold hundreds (maybe thousands).

    When I first started writing, I immediately learned from writing books and others that you will not make it in this business, that lighting can strike but it won’t strike you, that only the lucky few get noticed, write because you love it and not for any money. The list goes on. So yes, I’ve started all this with the lowest expectations on earth.

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