Motivation,  Self Talk

Does Luck Have Anything To Do With Writing Success?

What About Luck?

“Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s March, so our mental images are filled with gold-filled pots accompanied by rainbows. We see references to leprechauns and shamrocks. And this writer, whose birthday is on a lucky March 17, feels lucky when she doesn’t have to celebrate her spring-ish birthday by shoveling snow. (Who am I kidding? I never shovel snow. That’s why I had sons.)

These references to cartoon luck makes me wonder? How much does luck really play in our writing careers? I can say that I have had my share of luck. But in the same breath, I can say that I’ve worked my butt off and that all the good that happened to me came because of my own work. And I’m one of those creatures who believes that my Maker could have something to do with it too. 

Is it luck or is it just cause and effect? Do I ever confuse luck with the unexpected? Do I give credit in the right place? Should I?

These are the “luckiest” things that happened to me since I became a writer:

  1. My first traditionally published book opportunity came from  a publisher that sought me out through my blog.
  2. Catholic Digest contacted me about promoting my romantic comedy Falling For Your Madness in December 2014.
  3. In April of 2016, Writer’s Digest named my website and Facebook group one of the Top 101 Websites for Writers.
  4. In September of 2016, Writing magazine bought thousands of copies of my book and included them with copies of their magazines to subscribers and in grocery stores across the UK.

There are probably more, but these are the most significant. I honestly can’t say if any of these things were the direct result of my hard work or me just being in the right place at the right time. But I do know this: had I sat on my butt and done nothing, then that’s what I would have received.

How do you feel when others look at your success and say, “You’re so lucky!” Is it an insult to say, “you’ve gotten lucky” or, “lucky you?” They may see the fruit of your success and never witnessed your toil. Are they suggesting that all success if just luck? Do they shirk their own responsibility, because of luck? Does this mean that if you remove luck from the equation, and you aren’t successful, then you’d have to own up to the fact you haven’t done your part? Are those who believe only in luck afraid to suggest that they are the ones who should take responsibility for their failures? 

Now there are times when “bad luck” appears and it has nothing to do with the hard-working stiff. There’s a drought and the crops fail, the investor runs off with all the money, the publishing house gets sold and the book goes out of print. These events, which are completely out of our control, are no bearing on our character nor our willingness to work hard. At the risk of oversimplifying tragedy, could it be that these are opportunities in disguise? Is there a possibility that sowing the ashes of this tragedy could reap bounty later?

Maybe that’s too much of a stretch for some people. Maybe they’d rather blame their circumstances. Maybe they’d rather look out the window to their bad luck than look in the mirror at what they could possibly fix.

In the arts, the sowing and reaping acts are so unclear. We’re not sure what we’re supposed to be sowing: we could grow in our skill set — which often means being teachable and learning all we can. We could always say yes to opportunities within our vision. We could try new things and keep trying new things and keep trying new things until something sticks. We could make efforts to meet people and stop viewing connections as a place to sell books.

What is cause and effect in the writer? The cause is the good habits, the discipline, the plugging at your craft day after day. The effect could be, at the very least, the becoming of a better, stronger writer.

I’ve decided that there really isn’t any such thing as luck, despite my birthday. The success that’s come to me because of my own hard work (and the grace of God) is satisfying. If it were all luck, I think it would feel emptier. 

This month, work hard. Try new things. Grow in every way you can. 

I’m betting you’ll be pleased with the results. 

Katharine Grubb is an author, poet, homeschooling mother, camping enthusiast, bread-baker, and believer in working in small increments of time. She leads 10 Minute Novelists, an international Facebook group of time-crunched writers. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.