Tuesday, July 26, 2011

14 Preparing for Luck to Strike

There have been a lot of posts lately about green-eyed monsters and other people's success, and I've done a lot of soul searching about this subject myself. The subject really came home to me yesterday when I read an article about something completely unrelated.

As you may, or may not, know, I just got back from Washington and Alaska. We went there in search of wildlife, and we were extremely lucky. Our whale watching trip in the San Juan Islands found a super-pod of Orcas, while the one in Alaska put us literally in the middle of one of the largest pods of humpbacks that had ever been seen in the area. On a kayaking trip in Kenai Fjords, we ran into a large group of bow-riding porpoises swimming together with a dolphin, and spotted two separate Minke whales, more humpbacks, and lots seals, sea lions, and sea otters. Our trip to Denali National Park netted black and brown bears, moose, bald eagles, and even a wolf and an elusive lynx. Bottom line, we were lucky enough to be in the right places at the right times, and we kept our eyes peeled.

Unfortunately, another group of people visiting Alaska were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The article I read yesterday was about seven students mauled by a grizzly defending her cubs. The students were at the front of a large group of National Outdoor Leadership School participants crossing a river at the tail end of a 30-day backpacking trip.

NOLS is a great organization. My son has done several adventures with them, and he's learned a lot each time. The counselors are always prepared. The students tend to be smart and resourceful. And this particular group had already been out there a long time. They would have learned that bears usually leave people alone, especially if she hears a group coming, and these kids were crossing a river. They can't have been exactly silent. It seems they did everything right. As inexplicable and devastating as this tragedy was, after the attack, the kids handled everything extremely well. The outcome for the victims could have been much worse otherwise.

My heart goes out to these kids and their families. They were exceptional young people at the threshold of adulthood, poised to conquer the next phase of their lives. Meanwhile, the last photos my daughter and I took in Alaska was of a mother brown bear with her cubs at Katmai National Park. Wandering through the woods at Katmai, there were literally bears bigger than conventional grizzlies all around us. Granted, there were almost 75 rangers at the park, but believe me, the thought of mishaps definitely crosses my mind.

No matter what we do, no matter what preparations we make, luck plays an enormous role in the outcome of any venture. Publishing is no different than any other aspect of life. But luck isn't the only element. The best luck can be foiled by failing to be ready to follow through. At the same time, the worst luck can be mitigated by knowledge, determination, and solid preparation.

We all know what we need to do to succeed as writers. We have to write well. We have to come up with stories that readers want to read. And yes, we have to submit them, to the right people at the right time. But you know what? Since we can't control the timing and the luck, all we can do is keep improving our stories and sending them out. We can't give up. We can't feel defeated. We can support each other and rejoice in each other's successes.

If we're not prepared, mentally and technically, to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves, the best luck won't help us. Instead of getting discouraged, we have to take our craft to the next level and be prepared.

What are you doing to improve your writing? Are you writing? Are you working on a great new idea? Are you looking for a great idea? Are you reading books that inspire you? Are you going to SCBWI-LA or other conferences to get energized and recharged?

Best of luck,



  1. Wow. It truly is amazing the role luck plays in our lives.

    Your post really gives me a lot to think about.


  2. This is such a thoughful and well-stated post. My family and I have hiked in grizzly country without bear spray and had the good fortune of never coming across a bear. Again: luck.
    In terms of writing, I couldn't agree more. I am waiting for my lucky moment to happen. In the meantime, I work to better myself as a writer by writing new stories and constantly revising.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. So true, Martina. We just never know, do we? Sometimes I think I've got it all figured out, and then I realize I'm not completely in control. All we can do is live our lives right, keep a good attitude, and enjoy the ride, bumps and all.

  4. best blog post I've read in a long time. Love your attitude.

    And your adventure stories! WOW, we just got back from Newfoundland and alas, did not see a single whale. But, the scenery!

  5. It is so easy to become a discouraged writer when it seems success is happening all around you, but not to you. What helps me most is having a writing support group. My local writing organization and critique partners have sometimes been all that kept me going as a writer.

    Love this post and so well said. I heard about the bear attack on the news and my heart bleeds for those families.

  6. Very nice post - thank you. You're so right and I'll keep this in mind (especially the not be discouraged part).

  7. Those poor kids and their families. My heart breaks for them.

    Being prepared is a HUGE advantage in most endeavours in life, but you're so right. Luck also has a lot to do with it. Here's to being lucky and prepared! :)

  8. I believe that being in the right place at the right time (luck) will only take you so far. You have to be able to provide the goods, too.

    I'm studying other authors and looking to take more writing courses.

    We all need to keep our skills updated...all except J.K. She's pretty much proven she's golden.

  9. Wow. Great post, Martina! Glad your trip went better than those poor kids'!!!

    So true about being ready to seize the moment when fortune shines on us. I'm always writing, but I'm very much looking forward to SCBWI L.A. See you there! : )

  10. Such good advice. We can control working on our writing but not our luck.

  11. Martina, your vacay sounds wonderful. That part of the world is on my list of places not to miss. Tragic news about the bear incident. Great advice on being a lifelong learner of you art. I am always reading a book on writing along with lit. I learn something valuable from each one. See you at SCBWI. Remember not to order the eggs benedict at the hotel.

  12. Thanks so much, everyone! You are all such a professional crew. What are your favorite craft books? Maybe we need a post on that :D And omg, Leslie, I completely forgot about the eggs! Thanks for the reminder. I would definitely have made the same mistake. I am SO looking forward to seeing everyone!

  13. Thanks for the encouraging reminder! I'm improving my writing by: reading Deborah Halverson's Writing YA Fiction for Dummies...attending the Oregon SCBWI conference (the LA one is too spendy), and continuing to critique and write, write, write!

  14. Don't get discouraged, too busy for that! :0)


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