Making My Own Luck

Can we really make our own luck?

Lately I’ve been reading The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman. If you’ve never heard of Jane Friedman, I’d definitely suggest looking her up, particularly if you want to make writing a career. She’s got some great advice and information for the business side of things.

Anyway, one of the things she talks about early in the book is the idea that part of success is luck. Well, yeah, we already talked about that back in March.

But more than that, she cited a study from the University of Hertfordshire (look up Richard Wiseman and The Luck Factor) that looked at people’s perceptions of their own luck. Basically, what it came down to was that if a person considered themselves unlucky, they were more apt to miss opportunities or to skip trying for certain opportunities whereas someone who viewed themselves as lucky stayed more open and were more likely to see opportunities as they arose.

It was all about mindset.

And isn’t that so true? How many times have you skipped applying for something or submitting something because you were convinced you wouldn’t get it? I know I’ve given up on my share of opportunities for that reason.

But we can make our own luck. We see it time and again, how our mindset about our chances of success can be predictive. If you really want it to happen, if you expect it to happen, you’ll see more of the opportunities and take more chances to make it happen… and that can increase your chance for success.

Now, of course I’m not saying that positive thinking will make you a bestselling author.

No, what I’m saying is that we need to evaluate ourselves. How is our outlook on our career affecting us? Does it affect our mental health? Is it limiting us?

Or is it helping us to expand our horizons, take chances, and really put ourselves out there?

If your answer is that you are limiting yourself, that’s okay. I limit myself, too. But let’s use this as a springboard to recognize those times when we’re cutting ourselves off at the knees. Let’s use it to encourage ourselves to move forward and take a few risks. And let’s find the people who will let us know when we’re selling ourselves short.

One step at a time, let’s change our outlook on our careers. Let’s make our own luck.

And let’s keep writing.

The Luck o’ the Writer

Yeah, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna make a St. Patrick’s Day-inspired post.

Around this time of year, I tend to watch Leap Year at least once. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a charming, hilarious movie set in Ireland. The main character Anna, played by the fabulous Amy Adams, is tired of waiting around for her cardiologist boyfriend to propose to her, so she calls upon an ancient Irish tradition that may or may not actually exist: if she proposes to him on Leap Day, he must accept. Well, shenanigans ensue, and without any spoilers, things don’t exactly go as expected. There’s a lot of Anna trying to control her life and her relationship and a lot of the world telling her she can’t.

But that movie, and the only holiday in March, got me thinking. As writers, there are so many things out of our control. So many things based in luck (ah, there’s the rest of the St. Patrick’s Day cliche).

We can control our writing. Our editing. Our interactions with readers and potential readers.

But we can’t control when an agent will read our query. How the market will be when our book is ready. What mood a person is in when they read your book.

All of these things influence the success of our work. It can mean the difference between a shining review and a mediocre review. It can mean the difference between finding an agent or not. It can mean the difference between selling a book or not.

And for a lot of people, especially when they start (though it never gets much easier, from what I can tell, particularly if you’re traditionally published), it’s hard not to be able to control how well your book does. Sure, there are things we can try, there is marketing we can do, and we can independently publish. But we can do all the things right and still not see the success we want to.

Today I just want to remind you that even if your book never sells a single copy, even if you never get an agent, that doesn’t mean your book isn’t valuable and isn’t good. Sometimes the luck isn’t on our side. The wrong agent reads it, or another, bigger book releases on the same day as yours.

Don’t let that stop you. Keep working hard, keep learning, keep doing everything you can, but don’t beat yourself up if things don’t work out right away. Do what’s best for you and your book, and don’t take it personally if it fails. Learn from it. Grow with it. In an industry where we only have so much control, take control of what you can. Give yourself every chance for success.

And whatever else you do, make sure you keep writing.