Friday, November 24, 2006

The Joy of Being "Lucky"

Thought of the Day—

I was browsing my bookshelf recently and found a book a friend bought me a couple years back. It’s called TAKE JOY: A BOOK FOR WRITERS by Jane Yolen. I opened to a page and this is what it said:

Be Prepared for Serendipity.

The word serendipity, which means “a happy accident,” was actually coined by Horace Walpole in his take about “The Princes of Serendip” who made more of their luck than most of us.

How does a writer organize luck? In a variety of ways. Perhaps a file of articles or quotations. Perhaps a stack of book s from a second-hand shop on a variety of fascinating subjects. I keep photos and pictures around that seem to say, “Find my story.


I started thinking about the way I find “luck” in my writing. I think showing up is part of it. I tend to write more poems when I (get this) sit down and start writing. Imagine! When I spend less time wandering the words of emails or weaving through the internet, I tend to write more. When I write every day, my mind is much more open to writing, it wants to try and play. It’s not worried about making mistakes. However, when I don’t write for a while and I sit down to write, I put more pressure on the words, on the poem. I think: This one has to work out; it’s been so long! When I’m writing daily, the pressure is off because I know if I don’t get a poem today, I’ll get one tomorrow or the next day. I know they will appear, my fingers, my mind, my paper is open to them.

I also keep a notebook, orange with a pocket in the back for interesting items I find. Sometimes genius is written in that notebook, though most times I’m trying to figure what I meant by something, a random phrase about salmon thrown in with the words “woodchuck, woodstock.” Where was I that day? What was I thinking? I usually don’t know.

I think “luck” is really persistence though. If you really want to write better, you will. If you really want to publish a book, you will. If you really want to write every day, you will. You will find time in busy day. There will a few moments on a bus or before bed. You make time for what’s important. Luck in the writing world is showing up and persisting, even after the 70th rejection. Even after doors have closed. Luck is what happens when you don’t take no for an answer.


  1. I still at times will write something in my journal and then look at it and ask myself why. There is silence that follows.

    Thanks for reminding me this is not abnormal.

  2. I think not only is it not abnormal, but incredibly human.

    It's almost as if our writerly selves are giving us a riddle-- figure out why at one moment we were moved by this. Maybe it's a way to stretch our imagination.

    I always look back in my journal and my one thought is, "Why didn't I take better notes." I think I had this thought a lot in college as well. I basically believe I will remember more than I ever do.



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