Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lucky or Good ?

You’ve likely heard the expression, “I’d rather be lucky than good.”   Its origin isn’t clear, but many say Lefty Gomez, a pitcher for the New York Yankees in the early ‘30s, used it frequently when discussing the outcome of games in which he pitched.   Regardless of who coined the phrase, it’s been used ever since by a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds.
I’m not sure the expression applies to writing or to becoming a recognized author.  For me, the phrase fails on several fronts.   First, it implies that being lucky can supplant being good, that given the choice, one should select luck.   While we can all use a little luck in our lives, I’m not sure all the luck in the world will get a book on the New York Times Best Seller list, or for that matter, get a thousand books sold on Amazon.  
The expression also implies that if you’re unlucky, being good suffices.  To be a successful writer, you not only have to be good, you need to continually work at improving your craft until you’re better than good.   Being good at a profession where hundreds of thousands of new writers appear each year buries you and your work under a mountain of manuscripts produced by other good writers.  In writing, success comes only after producing unique, interesting, and the best writing you can create.
Finally, the phrase suggests having luck and being good are mutually exclusive, and that you don’t necessarily need both.   I believe there are many great (not just good) writers who fail to have their work recognized. This failure can be for a number of reasons, poor marketing being among the leading explanations.  Whatever the reason, a little luck along the way might have changed their outcome.   If their manuscript, press release, or blog snippet had fallen into the hands of a publisher or agent who was looking for their work on that given day, they might have been given the opportunity they’d been seeking for years.
The phrase “I’d rather be lucky than good” really doesn’t apply to writers.  When it comes to writing, the expression should be “I’d rather be great and lucky.”  

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