Friday, January 12, 2007

Do you steer your ship or do you wait for the wind to blow you?

Magic. Fate. Luck. They're all very romantic notions that probably every writer at one point or another has spoken of. I know I have. With me it's the "magic of this" or the "magic of that." But the "magic" I think it's good to remember, is you. Dumbo's feather wasn't the magic. It's nice sometimes to think those things, but it can be a crutch rather than a help in the end.

What about fate? And luck? Writers often want to credit good luck with their success and blame failures on bad luck. I'm not sure I believe this is a healthy way of seeing things, because it makes you dependent on the whims of some outside mystical force that you can't predict, so why try?

If something is defined as "good luck" then how can you replicate it? If you blame "bad luck," how can you learn to grow? I know it's a horrible cliche, but I truly believe luck is when hard work meets opportunity. All the luck in the world won't help you if you haven't been honing your craft and completeing manuscripts to submit.

It's not a very popular idea, but I believe taking responsibility for your writing will get you farther down the road than believing in magic or luck. The best shot you have is becoming a truly great writer. Make your goal something more ambitious than just "good enough to be published." Both "good writing" and "great writing" are subjective, but whining about someone not recognizing your brilliance does nothing but identify you as a whiner.

A lot of writers want to blame bad luck. And maybe someday I'll be bitter and cynical and be one of those writers, but I hope not. Maybe my adorably cute "naive optimism" will someday be gone. Still, I hope I always understand that my greatest shot is to develop a strong writing voice and produce great writing. Take responsibility, it's empowering. Far more empowering than sitting around and wishing on a star. If your writing isn't great, figure out how to make it so.

It always comes back to craft. Read more, write more. Get your work critiqued, enter contests. Submit. Submit. Submit. But don't wait for luck. Just get better.

Take control of your ship.


Edie said...

Zoe, I'm so with you. Luck does have a place in this business, but that's for a few who are in the right place at the right time. For all the others, it's just what you said: hard work meets opportunity.

Like you, I'm honing my craft and completing mss. I'm submitting too--making my own opportunities.

Zoe Winters said...

Thanks for the comment Edie. Writing a blog every day makes me sound like a big "Know it all" so I really appreciate comments that indicate I'm not completely talking out of my ass. ;)


spyscribbbler said...

I love the title of your blog! So cool!

And amen to your post. A big Amen! I love this post. About luck ... I believe whole-heartedly in good luck when it comes to my successes, but when it comes to my failures: I blame myself.

There's probably something wrong with that picture. :-) I'm putting this in my "great posts" list!

Zoe Winters said...

kickass spy! That's awesome. And here i was thinking this was one of my weaker or "talking out of my ass like I actually bought a clue on sale at walmart" posts.


:) Glad you liked it. And I can see what you're saying about believing in good luck but not bad luck. Believing you had good luck in a sense is like having modesty, cause otherwise you're saying: "Yes, bitches, I'm just that good." And to say you worked hard but had good luck is to be less narcissistic. :)

But Blaming bad luck is just not taking responsibility to improve.

Zoe Winters said...

Spy, I've also been meaning to add your blog to my "blogs to watch" list. I've actually been meaning to do that for several days lol.

Bernita said...

I'm still trying to figure out where the wheel is on my ship.
Thank you for stopping by my blog.

Zoe Winters said...

hehe. No problem. :)

Amethyst said...

Great post. Way too many people blame good luck or bad luck in life for stuff. I've been guilty of that myself. I think you are definitely right about people taking responsibility for what they do.

I've noticed it's like that with jobs. I used to blame good luck or bad luck. But you know, it's my efforts that got me the jobs. Not luck. Not some mystical magical powerful force. It was *me*. If I lost a job, it was me that screwed up, not the super powerful force of luck/magic/sky fairies/what have you. People do need to take responsibility. Yeah, sometimes shit happens, but it's up to you how to deal with it.