Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Creating Luck

I've heard a lot of people, not just writers, pointing to someone who has been very successful as being lucky.  "They were in the right place at the right time," they'll say, or "That person had the right connection to make it."

I think this is a little bit misleading.  Yes, there are the Paris Hiltons of the world, those born into privilege who have no talent beyond the birth canal they traveled through.  However, most people go a very different path.

I tend to believe that the amount of "luck" you have as a writer is directly proportional to the amount of work you're willing to put in.  The quality of your work and whether it gets noticed can depend heavily on how much time you put into editing it.  Did you work the whole weekend on getting just the right sentence structure and ensuring it was free of errors, or did you succumb to temptation and head on down to the tailgate party your buddies were pestering you about?  Nothing wrong if you did, but you have to understand the tradeoffs involved.

When it comes to those who knew the right person at the right time, I've very often found that the writer in question worked for years to establish those contacts.  If they met and got a book blurb from Tom Clancy, it was usually through that editor they met at the writers' conference a year or two ago and maintained a relationship with.  If they got a mention on a regionally famous radio show that led to increased sales, it was because they had the balls to walk up to the host during a panel one afternoon and strike up a conversation.

How much work have you put into your website?  Did you just throw it up there and hope people will find it through a Google search?  Or did you work for hours on quality content and then go to other websites where they allowed you to link to yours?  How early have you gotten up to participate in online forums before you went to work at The Gap?
(These displays don't set up themselves)
The point of all of this isn't to be condescending, which I'm sure it sounds, but to point out that any level of success usually comes through hard work.  Putting in long hours and engaging your brain to the task at hand is the way to create opportunity.  As writers, we like to focus on how much time we spend on a novel, but there are many more aspects we have to work hard at in order to be successful.  We need to be business savvy in order to establish contacts and know how to create a market presence.  Such things might not be sexy, but they help open up venues we thought were closed and get us in front of the audiences we want to reach.

This is one of the hardest things for writers to get.  We can't "just write" and pawn off the gritty work of everything else to others.  We are our own best marketers, and we have to exercise those skills to open up opportunities.  I've seen far too many people who have talent, but not the foresight to go the extra mile, continue to stand on the sidelines and bitch about others catching a break.  This does nothing but serve jealousy and envy, while those who are willing to do the work will get ahead of the pack.

Our level of luck is up to us more often than we'd like to think.  Yes, it doesn't always work out, but we can't sit back and let luck come to us - we have to seek it out.  With enough patience, we too can find fortune.


  1. Great post as always, RD. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it - and your honest voice makes it that more enjoyable.

    I haven't read this type of perspective anywhere before - not that it is improbable, but that people just aren't talking about it - so kudos to you for discussing a viewpoint that hasn't been discussed - yet.

    I think everyone, not just writers, needs to hear your message. I hope you will share this blog post all over, and I will do the same, because I enthusiastically support your message. Keep writing and sharing your viewpoints!

  2. Thanks! Hopefully some people listen.