Most creative writers have a secret desire to enter a writing or poetry contest at some point in life. Yet they stifle that desire by thinking they aren't good enough to enter. It's one thing to analyze your writing and know that you are not a Thoreau or Stephen King, and it is altogether another to think so little of your writing that you won't take the chance on entering contests.

It is a fearsome thing to write and let others read your writing – particularly when you're not used to it. This is where writing clubs come in very handy. Join with other writers. Post your work in your port where other writers can see it and leave comments on it. Then you can read their work and comment on theirs. Don't be concerned if you feel inadequate to critique someone else. You will learn as you go.

The writing groups hold lots of different kinds of contests. The prizes are very small, but the point is, it is a wonderful place to begin entering contests.

But for those who are ready to venture forth to something larger, search "writing contests" on the net and you will find all you want. The trick becomes, how to sort them out. Which ones do you enter? Use this as a guide:

· Watch out for contest scams. These contests will want you to pay $50 entry fee, and virtually all of the entrants receive a letter telling them they have won. When you reply, they will want another $20 for a biography, and later on you can pay a little more and become a grand prize winner. The "winners" are told their work will appear in an anthology (collection of short stories or poetry), but of course, you have to buy that, too. Then you are supposed to sell them to your friends and neighbors. A little common sense goes a long way in this kind of thing.

· Follow the direction to a tee. This cannot be expressed strongly enough. Do exactly what you are told or your entry will be thrown out.

· By entering smaller contests, you will have a greater chance of winning. Larger contests such as Writer's Digest has over 16,000 entrants.

· What you should expect to pay: your entry fee and reading fee should be all you have to pay. These fees are what subsidize the awards, so the fees are necessary. Fees for lesser expensive contests will total $20 to $35. Yes, that is per entry.

· Winning the lottery is much akin to winning a writing contest. Against all odds, even when you think you don't deserve to win and then you do, it is the ultimate high! No writer should cheat himself/herself out of this great learning experience.

Choose the contest that best suits you and your pocketbook and go for it! Contests usually come out in the spring and fall, so plan to gamble that much on yourself twice a year.