I submitted two personal / motivational essays in last year's Writer's Digest Annual Writing Competition and, luckily, both my entries received honorable mentions. Naturally, I am going to enter a couple of pieces this year as well, looking for affirmation (and a boost to my self-confidence) that maybe it was more than just pure luck that I ranked at all - perhaps I do have some talent. And perhaps I can do even better this time.
But what do I submit? I started several short stories over the last year, experimenting with mysteries, young adult stories, and more, but I did not find inspiration in them - I did not "own" any of them the way I own my motivational stories, essays, or my full-length work of literary fiction. After picking them apart I realized that each piece felt off because it still read and sounded like me - my eighteen year old heroine simply felt too old and out of touch and my mysteries centered on character development and psychology instead of focusing on suspense and plot twists. I was expecting my writing to change with, instead of adopt to, each genre.
Now that I have figured that out, I just need to make it work. I will enter a personal essay again, since I like working on them and I have become fairly comfortable with that form. Yet, I know that if I want to develop as a writer I need to leave my comfort zone and explore the hidden corners of my creativity, learn to show not just the why but also the how and the what in various forms. And do all that without losing my style.