What's Luck Got to Do With It?
Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect. --Ralph Waldo Emerson
This quote made me think about the struggle to become published and how often we attribute luck to being a big factor in whether we sell our work. I do believe luck is a factor, but it's a smaller one than many people realize. We have lots of control over how much of our success is determined by luck and how much of it is determined by our own actions.
What I mean is, sometimes authors happen to be at the right place at the right time with the right book, and great things happen to their careers. People tend to call that luck. But that's dismissing the hard work and talent that went into writing the book and the work that went into putting the book in the right place at the right time.
Luck may have been a factor (say, if you happen to be writing great paranormal novels today, when the market is hot for them, instead of ten years ago when no one wanted them), but it does the author a disservice to focus on it. Even in the example of writing paranormal, we could eliminate the luck factor to a large extent by saying that if anyone chose to persist in writing paranormal books when the market for them was dead, they were creating their own bad luck, and if they were smart enough to jump on their passion for vampires when the market was on the upswing, then they made a smart business move.
I can think of one author whose career took off in a huge way a few years ago, and lots of people said she'd just gotten lucky. What really happened though was that she was a smart, talented woman who wrote for years and years, paid her dues, kept her eye out for opportunities, wrote the best books she could, and when she spotted what had the potential to be a huge opportunity, she worked as hard as she could to get it, and then she made the most of it.
Was that luck? No. It might look like luck on the surface, but it was really hard work and dedication and good business sense.
The authors who keep writing and keep improving and keep learning from their mistakes and keep sending their work out as much as they can are the ones who sell. If you find yourself frustrated that you aren't making progress, then you may need to take a hard look and what you're doing and assess what you might be doing wrong. If you can't figure out on your own, recruit the help of a trusted friend to offer their brutally honest opinion.
Don't succumb to writing it all off as luck (or lack thereof). We don't have the fates of our careers totally within our control, but we can control the most important thing--the writing itself.