Thursday, October 09, 2008

Creating Luck

How much do I love Pushing Daisies right now? Yesterday was one of those days that wasn't actively bad, but it was kind of the culmination of a lot of little annoying things from the whole week, where even the good news had a down side and the bad stuff was entirely justified. Then I got home from choir practice and it was cool enough for my first hot cocoa of the season, I curled up with my cocoa to watch Pushing Daisies, and there was this one part that was so funny I not only laughed out loud but practically had to pause the tape to get it out of my system before I could go on with the show. Because of that, the day ended on an up note.

I think part of the annoyance of the day was realizing that a lot of the problems were at least indirectly my own fault. Yes, there were situations caused by decisions other people made, but I know I haven't maximized my own efforts in the areas where I do have control. I had yet another one of those wake-up calls (yeah, I seem to get about one a month. I guess I keep hitting the snooze button on my life wake-up calls) from Seth Godin's blog about luck. Paraphrasing, he pretty much said that while there are some people who genuinely do luck out, like lottery winners, for the most part, what looks like luck is really effort. Then he gave his "diet plan" for making yourself lucky, which included taking 120 minutes a day away from unproductive things and using that time to exercise, stay in contact with people, volunteer, read and study in your field, etc. Meanwhile, devote one weekend day a week to spending time with people you love and don't spend money on unnecessary things, instead saving it. There's a very good chance that at the end of a year doing that, you'll look a lot "luckier." You'll be healthier, saner, better informed, better off financially and better connected, and that will probably put you in a position to take advantage of more opportunities.

That definitely applies in the writing world. Yes, there is a lot of luck involved. It's all about the right manuscript landing on the right editor's desk at the right time. A book may sell primarily because an editor picks it up right after her boss tells her they need to find just that kind of book, and the same manuscript (or even a better one) may not have sold a week earlier or a week later (after the editor bought something else to fill that niche). But still, in order to have that stroke of luck, the author had to actually write the book and write it well enough to make it worthy of being published. The author had to do enough market research to find either the editor who might possibly be into that sort of thing or the agent who would know that the editor would be into that sort of thing. And then the author will have to take advantage of that stroke of luck in selling the book to deal with the editor in such a way that she'll want to keep working with her and to promote the book in such a way that it sells well enough to justify the editor's decision in purchasing it. There's a lot of effort that goes into a "lucky" break.

I know I can find a spare 120 minutes in my day. The trick is that when I record how I spend my time, it changes the way I spend my time, so the wasted time disappears. Still, I have a good idea of how I'm spending that time when I'm not recording it. I know I need to spend the bulk of any additional time I carve out actually writing. I also know I need to be better about staying connected and not falling into the cave of book world while I neglect my friends, family and business connections. The cave time wouldn't be quite so bad if I really did spend all that time on the book, but I have a nasty habit of using the fact that I'm working on a book as an excuse not to do anything else when I'm not actually spending all that time writing. Staying on top of the industry is good for helping create luck because getting a sense for editor/agent likes and dislikes and potential or dying trends increases your chances of getting the right book on the right desk at the right time. Studying the craft of writing is important, as is reading widely, both in your own genre and in other genres.

But changing my life (again) will have to wait until next week because this weekend is the Browncoat Ball, and I have a lot of preparing to do.

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sexy said...
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