Do You Feel Lucky?

Thursday, October 08, 2020

I had a front row seat at my oldest son’s somewhat unconventional wedding this past weekend, and as I sat there, listening to the vows between him and his soon-to-be-wife, I was struck by two things. Firstly, that Oldest Junior Hall had kissed a lot of close-but-not-his princess on the way to finding his true love. But he never gave up; he always believed he’d find The One. 

And secondly, considering the goofball (his words, not mine) that my son is, that he was awfully lucky to find someone who found all that wackiness not only endearing but was willing to spend the rest of her life with it/him. 

It all reminded me of the novelist, Philip Pullman (whose trilogy, His Dark Materials, is brilliant fantasy writing). He was the keynote speaker at the Summer Spectacular SCBWI Conference this year, and he had a virtual Q & A. 

Mr. Pullman (Or maybe it’s Sir Pullman?) began by listing the three things necessary to be a writer who gets published. One necessary thing is perseverance, said he. 

Well, yes, of course, that’s a fact. A writer who wants to get published must stick to it, hang in there, never quit and all that. Everyone can have perseverance, right? No special skill involved there, just the ability to keep working despite setbacks. Perseverance comes in handy whether you’re trying to get published or find a mate. 

The esteemed novelist told his audience that we must also have talent. 

Okay, that’s a bit trickier. He felt like fate had granted him writing talent and that had obviously been extremely helpful in his career. But he had worked at improving the talent he’d been given and he encouraged the audience to work diligently on improving the talent they’d been given. And that’s certainly doable, too, since there are so many opportunities available to help us writers improve our skills. So yes, perseverance, talent…I’m feeling very hopeful at this point. 

And then he came to the third necessity to be published: luck. 

Wait a dang minute. Luck? I’m not saying that I haven’t often felt like there are writers out there who’d been exceptionally lucky to get this or that publishing deal. But I eventually talk myself out of that thinking because luck, after all, is not something you can somehow acquire. It’s just…luck. Some people seem to have been born under a lucky star while others of us couldn’t find luck if it whacked us upside the head. 

So, honestly, this annoyed me. It annoyed me a lot. 

But then I stopped all the mental fussing and fuming and moved on because…well, it’s true. Luck comes into play in our lives all the time, whether it’s finding the right mate or finding a publishing contract. My own books came about because of a lucky connection made years ago, even years before I started writing for children. 

And so I hope you’ll take Mr. (Or Sir) Pullman’s advice to heart. Persevere, work on improving your writing talent, and then be ready when luck comes around to whack you upside the head. Because it probably will when you least expect it. It’s just like the song that my son and I danced to at his wedding: “Fairy tales can come true. It can happen to you…”

~Cathy C. Hall (who enjoyed dancing to Young at Heart. In fact, she likes to think she's among the very young at heart. And that makes her indeed lucky.)


Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--You are indeed young at heart. I've seen the pictures and read the stories to prove it.

You're right. Luck is a bit pesky. However, we can do things to help prod luck into emerging out of the ground. We can attend conferences. We can take classes. We can reach out to other writers--writers we've never met in person but are connected to nonetheless. We can expand our network through emails and Zoom meetings and dinners with friends and colleagues.

And please tell your son and his wife congratulations. I have a "goofball" son too, and he also managed to find someone who loves that side of him. (Thankfully she's more grounded and organized than he is.) Those kids who are tough-nuts-to-crack... it's so rewarding when they find happiness.

Cathy C. Hall said...

You're young at heart as well, Sioux! AND you are so right about luck--we can certainly improve our chances of finding it.

I'll pass along your best wishes to Oldest Junior Hall. Come to think of it, you're right about that, too. We may be young at heart but it's a fact we're also getting older and wiser. :-)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Well, do ya punk?

Sorry. That's the essential response to "Do You Feel Lucky?" Or at least it is in this goofball, movie-quoting household.

Congratulations to your son and his wife!

I do think that luck plays a part in our writing success. But Sioux is 100% correct. We play a part in our own luck. You have to be writing and making contacts and sending out your work. You have to learn and be willing to learn some more. That lucky moment will come. It is up to us to be ready for it.


Nicole Pyles said...

First, congrats your son and his wife!!

So, for me, luck feels like a code word for coincidence. And when I think of the word coincidence, I think of a line from a movie that said something like you either are the type of person who believes there are coincidences or you are the type that believe there are NO coincidences. I'm more the latter. I think "who you know" can feel lucky, or timing can even feel lucky, but I think perseverance, faith, and the desire to improve and build connections play an even bigger part.

Also, this story reminds me of one moment I read in this writing book that always stayed with me. It was about this teacher in an acting class who noticed this student that wasn't all that talented with acting, but enjoyed it anyways. Well, later down the road, he found this student again and she was one of the only people in that class he taught that had made her career in acting. She wasn't winning oscars, or even a big name person in acting but she had the love of acting in her heart enough to keep at it. And she had made it her career. And that stays with me whenever I feel like maybe I'm not talented enough.

And I like what you said, to be ready! Things happen when you least expect it

Charlotte Dixon said...

Awwww-Young at heart. I remember that song :) Yes, keep up the perseverance and keep after that dream. I know luck exists--just hard to come by-LOL I've had luck find me unexpectedly and I still scratch my head--how'd that happen? Love your post lady. Congrats to son and wife.

Jeanine DeHoney said...

Congratulations to your eldest son and his new bride on their marriage. It's wonderful to hear about joyous, and unconventional weddings, in a time of the Coronavirus. May they have many years of bliss. And I too believe in luck, although I prefer to call it blessings. Thanks for this inspiring post.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Sue, that's exactly the reference I was thinking of when I wrote the title for this post! And yep, one must be prepared for luck when it comes our way!

I agree, Nicole, I'm pretty sure there is no such thing as a coincidence; it's all part of the plan, even if we don't realize it at the time. And I love the story about the actress. I'm always heartened by the fact that often, the most successful people--in whatever dream they're chasing--are not necessarily the ones who are most talented but instead the ones who stuck it out!

Love that song, too, Charlotte, and I'm very glad luck has found you! (But I also know how hard you work and suspect you played a part in that luck finding you!)

I have to admit, Jeanine, that luck to me is the Lord working in mysterious ways. Or blessings, as you say!

And thank you to all for the good wishes for Son and New Wife! Weddings in the time of Covid can be challenging but love prevails.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Oh how wonderful, Cath! Congratulations to the happy couple. :) That mask is AWESOME.

You know, I do agree with Philip when it comes to luck being a factor in publishing. I've seen friends who've written an amazing book, gotten an agent, and had it pitched during a time when publishers were only looking for a certain demo and subject, so it didn't get picked up. Example is a friend of mine who wrote a dystopian that was shopped around when the pandemic started... terrible timing. So I guess it's more timing than anything else. Then another writer I know wrote an essay that went viral which lead to a two-book publishing deal. Going viral doesn't hurt! But you could consider that luck because you never know what will hit. I've always considered myself extremely lucky, and I agree with Sue that we have to be ready for it and accept it.

Writers are curious about life--that's why we write!--and while we may be older in other places, we are all definitely young at heart! :)

Cathy C. Hall said...

Thanks, Ang! I thought those masks were awesome, too! :-)

I wonder if luck is like happiness...that is, if we believe we're lucky (or happy), we are. Or if we expect luck, we attract it? Lots of theories about luck but there's one fact about it: luck is great (if it's the good kind). :-)

Renee Roberson said...

Congrats to the bride and groom, and yes I love the mask! I agree with you that a lot of writers encounter a fair amount of luck at some point, but I know how much blood, sweat and tears writers pour into their work so any luck is probably beyond deserved! I will continue to persevere in the meantime.

Linda O'Connell said...

Cathy, so fun to read your posts. I believe there are no coincidences, and perseverance is absolutely one of the keys to success. Every month I decide to quit writing, and then I give myself a swift kick and send out something. I am always amazed and grateful when I receive an acceptance. I have to remind myself that editors have needs for their publications and if my piece is suitable, it's a win-win.

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