So, discussions I've been having this week have gotten me thinking a lot about success versus luck. Most specifically, I have gotten the impression that an awful lot of people think that a writer's success is actually luck and has nothing to do with hard work.
Of course I disagree.
There is an awful lot that goes on which people looking from the outside simply do not see. Even if an author's work takes off and gains its own momentum, there was an awful lot of pushing uphill that permitted that particular ball to start its roll.
Yes, certainly an element of luck seems to come into play. More often than not however, if we really think about it, that luck is actually just the author's talent; their ability to convey some mysterious quality in their writing that readers latch onto and become excited about. Still, no one would have any inkling of that talent if the author did not put in the work to sit at a computer/typewriter/note pad and slog through the tough writing days, the hours of writers block, the hours upon hours of editing, the heartbreak of rejection, the silent tears in the night inspired by self doubt, by exhaustion, and fear. People don't see the unpaid toil that is writing a book and ensuring that it sees the light of day in the best possible iteration. They only see that the book has touched a nerve and become popular. What luck for the author!
Success, even for the 'lucky' ones is the result of hard, hard work.
Does that mean that everyone who works hard will be successful? Well... no.
Look at me, for example.
I have been writing seriously since I graduated university in 2007. My first ever self-published book came out in 2010, and was rereleased in 2011 (small plug: it was The Dying God & Other Stories). Since then I've come out with a book a year.
Am I able to make a living from my writing? Nope. One giant, fat nope. And it's not for lack of trying, let me tell you. In fact, I have spent more money than I've earned trying to get this writing dream off the ground; so much so that I'm hunting for a second job to support it. Tables at conventions cost money. Getting stock to sell at said conventions costs money. Getting people to do book covers (because I am genuinely unable) costs money... It's money well spent, mind you.
It's all money well spent.
But I'm not earning a living from my writing.
By all counts, that makes me, and this venture, a complete and utter failure.
And I'm totally okay with that.
I don't have many readers, and that's okay. The readers I do have are all, without exception, wonderful people. Some of them started out as friends and are now also readers. Some of them started out as readers and are now also friends. They have been the most wonderful support network anyone could ever ask for.
Though I work really hard at it, marketing is just not my strong suit. I'm not good at it. As a result I am, after seven years of writing and four years of publishing, one giant unknown. It's frustrating. It's heartbreaking. There are times I lock myself in the washroom and cry because of it. Never mind the tears that happen because of rejection by publishing houses. There are a lot of those.
Yeah.... I cry a lot.
I have heard arguments along the lines of 'Well, you chose to be a writer.' Yes. Yes I did. I chose it in as much as a people with a passion for numbers chose to be accountants or mathematicians. I chose it in as much as people who crave knowledge of the ocean chose to be marine biologists. I chose writing the way a child obsessed with the heavens chooses to become an astronomer.
Am I somehow less worthy of being paid because my passion is creative?
No. Yet people often treat me, and fellow writers, artists and musicians as if that is the case. How dare we seek to earn a living from a creative passion? Some demand our hard work for free with the promise of 'exposure,' and if we get successful, people throw into question our hard work. They call it luck.
There are some days when I find myself begging for the 'luck' other authors have received. Only, once I've calmed down, I know that they never had the kind of luck I'm hoping for. They succeeded because they deserved to, because they showed up every day and did what needed to be done.
What I'm doing now looks an awful lot like failure. I cannot see it like that. What I am seeing is the things people looking in from the outside do not see. I am seeing (and experiencing) all the work that goes into success. And one day, I can stop pushing that ball uphill. One day, that ball will start to roll all on its own.
And I will stand on the top of the hill, and the people who do not know, who cannot know, or who refuse to know will all stare and say, 'What luck!'
But I will know better.