Thanks for letting me stop by at Rhiana Reads and hello to your lovely readers! You asked me to talk about luck and what part I think it plays in our lives and I must say that the more I think about it the less I know the answer. Which is pretty much why I delayed and delayed writing the post – it all kept going round in my head and getting more confused instead of clearer. I’ve talked about aspects of it – such as making our own luck, and luck in publishing, but I’ve not really unpicked it properly. So, here goes!
We think we know what we mean when we say something or someone was lucky. But when we look at it closely, everything can boil down to luck. But if everything boils down to luck, then we can’t take responsibility for anything – and we can’t be blamed for anything either. And that doesn’t seem right. What would be the point in trying at all if everything was luck? If Mother Theresa and Adolf Hitler were only different because of luck, what would be the point of anything?Let me explain. Take getting published. We would probably all say that an amount of talent has to come into that, as well as some luck – for some people more luck than others. (For example, I worked hard for 21 years to get my first novel deal, which doesn’t feel very lucky…). But what about the bits we call talent and hard work – aren’t they based on luck as well? After all, having talent depends on a load of things happening to you when you were far too young to make good choices, including genes and environment, perhaps tiny things like a teacher praising you at the right time, or winning a writing prize when you were nine. And hard work? Well, you could say I’m lucky to have the personality that makes hard work likely; lucky to have a husband who could support me while I tried for so long; lucky to have the health to do it; lucky that I don’t live in a country rife with civil war; lucky that I don’t have a very sick child to look after; lucky in a million ways that have allowed me to work hard for many years.
Then there’s the luck of thinking of the right idea – after all, if it was mechanical and controllable, I could sit here now and deliberately conjure up the fabbest idea and make myself a fortune. There’s the luck of thinking of exactly the right words to express the idea. You think that’s not luck? Well, imagine I wrote a story; then imagine I lost it in a computer data-loss; and imagine I tried to write it again. Would I come up with the same words? No, nothing remotely like them. Because inspiration is fuelled by something that feels as uncontrollable as luck. The words that come into a writer’s mind at any one moment are controlled by something that feels far more like luck than application.
I have heard neuroscientists and philosophers argue that there cannot be any such thing as free-will, that the act of moving our hand up and down is not fully in our control, that David Beckham’s brain instructs him to kick the penalty before he thinks he’s making the decision about direction, that many external influences come to bear on our ability to decide to do the smallest thing. The arguments are sometimes powerful. And yet it is impossible – and would be terrifying – to take the view that there is no free-will. Then we could claim no credit for anything good we did, nor blame anyone for anything bad. Mother T and Mr Hitler would be equally to be admired or abhorred.
So, for society, for our overall happiness, for everything good in the world, we must believe that we have at least some control and therefore that although much is luck, much can be achieved by hard work and talent and that talent can be nurtured (though not created) by hard work and choice. We have to make some judgements, very human ones rather than purely logical ones, about what is luck and what is not. So, if you have an idea for a story and spend many hours agonising over it and crafting it into a book, I believe that was not luck but hard work and the application of your nurtured talent. If you accidentally leave your manuscript on a train and it is picked up by a hungry agent who happens to be looking for just that wonderful sort of book, I believe that was luck. But if you drop it at the feet of a hungry agent and while you are picking it up manage to spin a brilliant five second pitch, I believe that is the beautiful application of talent, hard work and wisdom.
And you then deserve all the luck that comes your way!
Copyright © Nicola Morgan 2010
“Nicola Morgan is an award-winning author for teenagers, with successful titles such as Fleshmarket, Deathwatch, Blame My Brain and Sleepwalking. She prefers to forget that she also used to write Thomas the Tank Engine Books… When she’s not writing, she loves speaking in schools, and at festivals and conferences in the UK and Europe, She also enjoys messing around on Twitter or her blogs. Nicola blogs for writers at http://helpineedapublisher.blogspot.com/ and has set up a special blog about her brand new book, Wasted – you can join the activities and contribute in lots of ways at http://talkaboutwasted.blogspot.com/
Thanks Nicola for dropping by and for a really interesting post!
You can read my review of Wasted here and I highly recommend it!
Make sure to join Nicola on the next stop of her blog tour tomorrow at This Counts As Writing, Right?