Preparing For Luck

Some people get the big break without even trying. We try not to be jealous or to wish bad things on them. But why can’t it happen to us when we want something so badly we can taste it?

In reality, most of us have to work for our success. We’re not going to be Lana Turner at the soda fountain when a Hollywood producer walks in. By the way, she’s well before my time, too. Type “Lana Turner soda fountain” into a search engine and you’ll get the rest of the story if you haven’t already heard it.

We have to work hard. And sometimes, we still don’t get the prize we’re after. That’s life.

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Luck comes to those who prepare for it.” And like a lot of overused old sayings, it’s true. If you’re not ready when opportunity arises, it can slip away before you even knew it was standing in front of you.

How many of us even recognize an opportunity to seize it? What if you’re in the elevator with a higher up at work and she asks how your project is going? Can you sum it up in a few seconds and impress her with your progress or idea for improving it? If so, maybe she remembers that conversation when you’re a candidate for a promotion. That’s preparing for luck.

As a writer hoping for a publishing deal, what would I say to the man sitting next to me who strikes up a conversation on a 3-hour flight? What if he sees me editing a hard copy of my work in progress and I find out he’s an agent looking for new speculative fiction? (Hey, I can dream, can’t I?)

I’d better be able to give him a 10-second killer sum up of the story. And when he says, “tell me more,” I need another 30 seconds to stop hyperventilating give him the highlights. If he’s still interested after that, I figure it’s okay to talk coherently about it for a few minutes. And I try to ask him intelligent questions about his work, clients, or thoughts on today’s publishing market.

[Totally off topic—NEVER rely on Word to check your grammar. I wrote the draft of this post in it, and it told me I should have written “its okay” in that earlier sentence.]

Two bloggers I follow (Emmie Mears and Kourtney Heintz) recently took part in the “pitch slam” at the Writer’s Digest conference in New York. Talk about pressure. Pitch your novel to a series of top literary agents in a few minutes. Not an undertaking for the faint of heart.

Did they “cram for the exam” at the last minute? Of course not. They spent countless hours crafting their pitches as carefully as their manuscripts. There was time spent in workshops getting ideas and early drafts critiqued. Then they practiced them as much as any musician preparing for opening night at Carnegie Hall.

And both got multiple requests for partial manuscripts. That’s a huge success for someone trying to break into the traditional publishing world. But it’s still not the end of the road. Writers don’t invest heart, soul, sweat, and tears for requests. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is a published book. Even after all that preparation, these two bloggers still have a lot of work ahead of them. And their perseverance is inspiring for someone like me.

No one ever said preparing for luck was easy. We still may not get what we want. In life, there are no guarantees that hard work will pay off. But it improves our chances of realizing that it is opportunity knocking and then getting to the door in time to meet it.

And now I think it’s time I worked on my pitching….

No, not that kind!

So are you doing everything you can to prepare for luck? Or have you already succeeded in grabbing hold of it?