The Yorkshire Sabre is rolling around again (and speaking of rolling around, I spent last night submission grappling, and found myself stuck in with the heavyweights. Time to lose that Christmas bulge). This will be my third (or possibly forth) year, and obviously it would be nice to progress to a podium spot this time, but the main thing I find myself thinking about is familiarity.
The first time I did it, I had no clue who anyone was. I just fenced. Yes, I got the better of a couple of people in the poules, but I didn't do that well. I've been getting steadily better since. Part of that is just the amount of competitive practise I've been getting (writing related comparison: put your stuff out there if you want to improve) and part of it is that I have fenced the best people three or four times now. It also helps that I have become used to the atmosphere.
So, there's probably a writing related lesson in all this, and it's the old one about letting yourself write poor things at the start. As you do more, you acquire more confidence and learn more, but that won't happen if you insist on keeping away from the rest of the world until your stuff is perfect. It's better just to dive in.