The writing world is rife with contests, the reward often being publication. Even poetry has become a contest in the form of the slam. It’s no surprise that this emphasis on winners and losers pervades the world of writing: it pervades our whole culture. And most of us want outer acknowledgment and reassurance that our writing is worthwhile. But if you want to listen deep inside to what your soul has to say, the contest mentality has to go. It’s a profound practice, noticing the inner voices that want to produce only blue ribbon results–without following their instructions. Instead, adding a new voice that welcomes whatever your pen produces on a given day, reminding yourself that any attempt to communicate through writing is an act of love and hope, and a cause for celebration.