By Barbara Longley
I buy lottery tickets every week. I know my chances of winning are astronomically slim, hovering right there next to nil, but I buy them anyway. It’s a gamble, and I guess I’m a little hooked. I don’t spend a lot—a couple bucks a week at the most. I don’t see it as a problem. Still, this week it struck me. I am a gambler. What does this have to do with writing?
Buying lottery tickets requires a modicum of optimism, or desperation, depending on the day and the circumstances. Writing requires the same. It’s a gamble. Here’s how it works. You write a book, enter it into a few contests, experience the thrill of a final and…HOOKED. That little bit of positive reinforcement spurs you on, you want another taste. You want the prize—a CONTRACT! You work at writing. It begins to consume bug chunks of your time. Writing is not a major component of your life. You start hanging with other writers who all have the same prize in mind. They are hooked. You are hooked.
Yep, I know. To succeed, to beat the odds in this game, you have to keep playing. It’s hard work. Expect bruises, because you’re going to get knocked around. Even after you win that prize, that first contract, the gamble isn’t over. The bar has just been raised, but you’re HOOKED, so you keep at it. The prize was that first contract. Now you have it, the prize changes. You’re aiming for the NYT bestsellers list, right? It’s like you used to play the slot machines, and now you’ve moved to the blackjack table. Next it’s the high stakes poker games.
I’m not talking talent here. You have it, and, as you already know, those other writerly types you’re hanging with? They’re talented too. I’m talking about luck, timing, and a willingness to take the risks. It’s a gamble, but I’m hooked. How about you?