I was sipping my coffee this morning, cruising my internet feeds (a sure way to sour my mood) when I ran across one that went begging for an answer. It was something akin to those ‘Ten Habits of Successful People” ideas. Only this one was more like the fifteen traits of lucky people. Something that presented a rather random list of behaviors and characteristics. The nature of it brought to mind the quote from Seneca above.
Luck applies in lotteries, card games, dice – but rarely success. As an artist and author I live by exposure and acceptance. Often, people will see where I’ve made it into a publication, exhibit, or show and exclaim, “Don’t you feel LUCKY?” Honestly, no. Satisfied would be a better descriptor. But then, they’re not privy to the work leading up to those points. Even when I’ve been in the so-called “Right place at the right time” it has been a matter of being prepared for whatever opportunity I encountered.
What goes into that kind of prep? Take this week for example. I have twenty pieces of short fiction, a novel, and eight or nine multi-piece poetry submissions out for consideration. I track these daily. I’m working with an editor at a magazine to get a short story into final shape for publication (Just because they accept it doesn’t mean your work is done.) and have written nine new poems in the last couple of days. Meantime I’m actively editing a draft for a new novel-length work and lie in bed awake at night, re-working two or three of the short stories I have out in my head. Oh, I’m also gearing-up for a binge of visual projects in studio for which I’m amassing idea files.
If something is rejected, I read it and determine what I might have done better. Quite often this results in rewriting the original. I have some pieces that are in their eighth, ninth, or tenth draft. I have paintings that exist as a long series of sketches, watercolor studies, canvas board trials, and completed works and their subsequent versions. This is actually quite productive because I have reached that point in my career where I realize that my ego is no measure of a work’s value or finish. No successful artist in history has ever been so confident as to believe they had nothing left to learn. Doubt is the great motivator. Once I have gone through this process I feel justified in sending whatever it is back out.
When dealing with editors, show curators, performance directors, I treat them as the professional I want to be seen as. Yes, they are dealing with the product of my imagination and toil – My babies, if you will – but they are also dealing with who knows how many other fragile psyches at the same time. That’s a juggling act I have been on both sides of and never envy.
I take their suggestions and give them honest consideration. Do we always agree? Well, no, of course not, but on my end I try to find the compromise that works for all involved. Is this always possible? Again, no, but the effort serves to keep the relationship cordial.
Why even worry about that? Because this person I’m dealing with is dealing with their own deadlines and pressures and, if I can develop an empathic bond, they might be more patient with me in our present endeavor – and helpful in future circumstances. In other words, as I learned in the military, everything depends on a team and the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. Oh, never forget, quite often it comes down to who you know. Friends will do more for you than enemies.
Luck, outside of gambling, is always a matter of work. Working to produce a product that you can offer without reservation to the world. Work at figuring out where to offer it and at what cost. Work in developing relationships that are beneficial in both directions. Work at dispassionately examining failure and discovering why it turned out the way it did and how to correct it.
There’s an old truism – Luck creates a lot of three-legged rabbits. How lucky is that?