Get lucky. Stay lucky. Most writers, not to mention those who read them, follow them, wish them on to success, count those two among the most important of elements to the writing life.
Get lucky. Write something that lays a beating heart on the page. That captures the right agent’s attention. That finds its way to a publisher who values it, changes it not at all or for the better, and clears the shelf-space decks for it.
Stay lucky. Do it all again – all while sales figures tick ever upward and Oprah is moved to revive her book club just for you.
Is this what we mean by luck? The tyranny of happenstance?
I’m lucky. My debut novel, “The Luminist,” found its way to agents who saw in it what it was that made me write it. They worked ceaselessly and now it’s been sold in three countries, including the US (where I make my home and my way through a writing life) and will debut in April 2011. My publisher gives me embers of real insight and scope in the editorial process, and the freedom to find my own way of building fire. They’re amazing, each and every one of them, in their support and love of writing, and of fiction (no small thing these days).
Of course, by lucky, I mean relentless.
All of us who write are surely familiar with the journey: the blank page, and the first sentence to mar it, then adorn it, then make it live as the beginning of a story. The times when it’s just you, fitting language to stillborn narrative, and the times when the characters stay a while and write themselves. The end – coda, as you begin the rewrite and the rewrite and the rewrite. The readers who don’t get it, and the ones who do – and wish it was in the hands of a better writer.
The query letters. The non-responses; the silent “no.” The it’s not right for my list’s. The I’m sure it will find a good home’s.
The one who says ‘I’d like to work with you. Because this, the thing you made, means something.’
And on, to the publisher who feels the same.
I’m lucky, in that I have the gift of flawed imagination – I simply cannot imagine not writing, no matter the response. I cannot imagine not listening to sentences and re-engineering their melody. I cannot imagine not knowing the feeling of tying the thread that binds the ending I didn’t know I’d reach to the beginning I couldn’t have contemplated as meaning this, when I wrote it all those months and months ago.
To me, this is what it means to be lucky. You have to be lucky to be built to withstand all that we withstand as we push our words out the door. You have to love it so relentlessly that to stop, to not, would be unthinkable. It would be miserable, painful, poignantly bad luck.
I wish each of you who write, luck.
Causes David Rocklin Supports
AIDS Project Los Angeles; ONE Campaign; Human Rights Watch