Some of the best days in my writing life are spent at literary conferences and yesterday was no exception. As any writer will tell you, it’s lonely living inside our own heads and while we wouldn’t have it any other way, there is something to be said for sharing our insanity with people like us.
Conferences connect writers through a shared community, but they also open up doors. Unpublished authors can pitch their manuscript to agents and editors of publishing houses via face-to-face contact. They can attend workshops lead by NYT bestselling authors and leaders in the industry who are committed to sharing their knowledge on the craft, the changing world of publishing and the value of social media. Until yesterday, I had no idea that a full hour dedicated to writing compelling dialogue wouldn’t be enough. It’s a plethora of information that is both invaluable and overwhelming.
As the good writer I am, honing my craft and working terribly hard day in and day out, I was surprised to hear a recurring word throughout the day.
It made me wonder. How much of one’s success is based on hard work? Where does talent fit in? What about luck?
I have to admit that considering luck to be in charge of my destiny scares the bejesus out of me. Because I’m a control freak. Not of people, but of my future. Anything I’ve wanted to accomplish, I’ve simply made the decision to do it and got it done. It’s not to say that it was easy. Most of my goals have taken years of sacrifice on both my part and the part of those in my life. I am often absent because I’m working toward this or that. Hard work – I got it covered.
Talent is subjective. Do I think I have some raw talent? Sure. If I didn’t, I never would have pursued a writing career. I also think we gravitate toward the things in life that come naturally to us. Writing has always been one of them for me. Does that mean I just sat down and wrote a novel? Far, and even farther, from it. I honed the little talent I had until it blossomed. I built upon the framework that I was born with, or had developed over time in my professional career and educational studies. I leaned on people and resources and, most importantly, used a fantastic editor. Yet, it took me a full three years to develop my voice. That’s an entirely different topic that I will eventually touch upon, but for now it’s about luck. Talent – I’m working on it and likely always will be.
Luck is the flame blowing in the wind. Luck is not about talent. Luck has nothing to do with hard work. It’s random. It’s a free spirit. Or is it…
If my success in writing is based upon those three things above, I guess I have a two-thirds chance of hitting the NYT bestselling list. By the way, the NYT list isn’t “the” barometer for success. It’s just my barometer. In addition to being a control freak, I dream big. Anyone that knows me can tell you that I have every intention of trying to control those odds. I refuse to give up one whole third of my chance to get those letters.
So what do I say to luck? With St. Patrick’s Day on the horizon, I tell luck the truth. I’m Irish. Because I am. In fact, I’m a whole lot Irish. Don’t let my tan skin fool you. I have about fifty plus cousins in Long Island baking Irish Soda Bread as I type. I may not wear green tomorrow because it clashes entirely with my olive skin, but I know where I come from.
What’s the takeaway from all of this? Work luck in your favor. For me, it’s being Irish. Next, it will be something else.
Do whatever you can to put the odds on your side. Follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before you and made it happen. Put all of your heart, your soul and your mind into your dream. Then ask luck to try to turn away from all of that.
Will I get my letters and join the NYT exclusive club one day? I have no idea. All I know is that I’ll do whatever I can to make it happen. I will not be leaving my entire one-third chance for success entirely up to luck.
Did I mention that I’m Irish?