Of Hope and Determination: Writing Fellowships

There’s no way I’ll ever get this fellowship. I’m not good enough. Why even waste the time and effort trying?

Sound familiar? Not just for writing fellowships, but for everything in life we try for (contests, job promotions, auditions, scholarships)? Everybody faces self doubt at some point. For writers, especially in this age of social media and self promotion, it’s a daily reality.

The last two weeks of November, I devoted ever waking minute I wasn’t at work to perfecting two writing fellowships applications: The George Bennett Fellowship in Exeter, NH, and the Fine Arts Fellowship in Provincetown, MA. I barely slept, ate, or left the house. I even used vacation time to stay home and write all day. After it all, and the “submit” button had been pushed, I spent the next week with a cold, having gotten “stress” sick from lack of sleep.

I put my whole heart into those applications, and every step of the way I had to fight the niggling doubt that I just wasn’t good enough and was wasting my time.

Overcoming those doubts taught me two things every writer MUST have to succeed, and which can be applied to everything you strive for in life.

1. Hope

Seriously. There are hundreds of thousands of aspiring writers out there. The market is flooded with more books than ever before. Social media is crowded with people clamoring for attention. Here you are, perhaps without any formal creative writing education or accolades to your name, tired and haggard from the demands of life, with little or no free time. Yet you have a big dream to write and publish a book while supporting your family as a professional writer? Yeah right.

Except for…hope. Optimism, faith, positive thinking, whatever you call it, hope is what gives you the strength to start, and continue, on this impossible journey to achieve something that, statistically, you will never achieve. Hope enabled me to persevere in the face of exhaustion and doubt, applying for fellowships that only the best and brightest are selected for. I hoped, because the only sure way to fail was to never try. If I tried, there was a chance I would succeed. Beyond success, just the simple act of trying, the growth and development I AND my story went through, means I’ve already succeeded.

No matter what your dream is, have hope. Hope will give you wings to reach for the stars. Even if you fall short, the moon is a heck of a lot higher and brighter than the gloomy bit of earth you started on.

2. Determination

So hope gives you a reason to try the impossible. But what happens when you try, and fail? Hope’s fragile blossom must be tended and maintained. Facing the hard slog, making progress, stubbornly refusing to quit when hope fails, all are fueled by determination. Whether you call it persistence, endurance, dedication, or tenacity, it is essential to success.

I’m probably not good enough to win a fellowship, but I applied anyway. I face daily interruptions in writing my book, but I keep working and make time for it. I never win the writing contests I submit to, but I keep writing and submitting to improve. My first book probably won’t be that good, but I’ll keep writing and publishing, getting better each time. I’m tired, discouraged, stuck, and feel like my writing is crap. But I’m determined. I won’t give up.

Be determined. Those who don’t give up are most likely to succeed. If you give up, you’ve already failed. Remember, no matter what the final result is, there’s always growth and learning in the process. You’ll come out the other side a better person for sticking through it.


No matter what happens, four months down the road in late April/early May when they announce the fellowship winner, my application experience has been a success. My opening chapters are stronger, I have a solid book synopsis, my plot and characters are better thought out, and I’m more focused and aware of why I’m writing. Hope and determination will get me through the waiting, and through the result as well, whether it’s acceptance or rejection.

This is the life cycle of a writer: hope, write, fail, be determined, keep hoping and writing, fail again. Each time you go through the cycle, you and your writing will improve, and eventually, you’ll succeed. Cultivate these traits and treasure them. No matter what your dreams, or your duties, always hope, and never give up. Your life will be transformed by the process, and you may even reach those stars in the end.


Thank you so much for reading! Please comment below and share your own experiences, triumphs, and failures. Please also check out my new Patreon page where you can read and support my writing.

Gizmo helping me write. She insists on being in the middle of whatever I"m doing.

Gizmo helping me write. She insists on being in the middle of whatever I”m doing.

Gizmo hogging my foot rest

Gizmo hogging my foot rest

Caught red-handed stealing the foot rest

Caught red-handed stealing the foot rest

Lap? Lap? Please?

Banished to the floor: Lap? Lap? Please?