Is Success About Hard Work or Luck?

I've been reading a lot about whether or not being a successful writer is has more to do with luck or working hard. I believe it takes both. While reading Kristen Lamb's fantastic blog, she covered this subject beautifully so some of what I say about this is coming straight from her words. I thought it was an interesting subject and something that really made me THINK so I wanted to talk about it today.

Unfortunately, we can work ourselves to the bones writing everyday, sharpening up our writing skills, reading everything we can get our hands on about our craft and yet... if we don't have a little luck it could all be for nothing.

Before I began writing, I thought my calling in life was to be an interior decorator. I took classes and did everything I could do to perfect my skills. Then when I felt confident, I began getting the word out to friends, family, and co-workers that I was a decorator. I got a few clients and felt I was on my way. People at work were passing the word around and asking me what could I do to help them decorate this and that room. I was feeling great!!

Then the ball dropped and my little itsy bit of luck ran out as fast as it appeared. My husbands company wanted to transfer him to another state. I knew at that moment that all my hard work, all my connections were out the door and if I wanted to continue decorating, I'd have to start all over again from scratch. It turned out to be non-successful as I discovered that not knowing one single person where I lived was way too difficult for me to start a business all on my own. I tried a few things but in the end, I gave up. I had no luck!

It proved to me that a lot of success is being in the right place at the right time in the right conditions. It also proved to me that I didn't have the kind of passion I needed. If decorating was really what I HAD to do in my life, I wouldn't have given up. Yes a little luck would have helped but in the end, I wasn't willing to do the hard work it would have taken.

Its the same thing with writing. I know that most of us writers work really hard. However, there are people who work their tails off their entire lives and get nowhere. Others pop out one book and SHAZAM!!!! Success! A lot of untalented people who have done very little work are rewarded.

The man who invented air-conditioning died penniless because he didn’t have the LUCK to run across an investor who saw what he had. The man who created Superman handed away his idea for pennies, because he didn’t have the luck to meet a person who wouldn’t take advantage of him.

I think it just goes to show that we need both. We need to work ourselves to death to write as good of stories as we can and then we need to actually finish those stories and get them out! All the luck in the world can't help us if we don't get our stories out there. Then a little luck would sure help! It's too bad we can't just order up some luck on eBay, huh?

What about you? Do you have any instances where luck did or didn't help you along the way? Do you think writing success has to do more with hard work or luck?


  1. I definitely think it requires both (with a heavy dose of luck!). For instance, I have been blogging faithfully for two years now. I'm lucky if I get 30 hits a week. Seriously. I put in the hard work of promoting and visiting other blogs, but it never seems to matter. No luck in the blogging arena! LOL

    1. I'm right there with ya, Katie. Blogging and keeping it going isn't easy.

  2. Sadly I think it's both. I work hard and get no-where some days, and then others I just happen to get a break. Sometimes its the other way around. In the end thought I believe its more than that though, I think the best way to get ahead is persistence. We will never get anywhere if we give up.

  3. I put more stock in hard work than luck.

    I'm not denying luck can be a factor, but since you can't rely on it, hard work is paramount, you can publish a book not yet written, and nonfiction aside, I mean that from a literal, not metaphorical standpoint.

    KatieC, I know you're annoyed about your lack of attention to the blogging you feel is necessary to do, but it does take time, and to loosely parrot something you once told me-

    "If blogging's not worth it, than that's how it is." I stick with blogging (Even if I'm not as consistent as I want to be someday) because I love it. It just takes time to build that audience.

    I'm not a parent, and I don't pretend to know the challenges you face there, but as a writer I understand some of the challenges you face, because I face them, too. Particulars are different, of course, but the feelings of frustration are the same.

    But don't forget that you have a lot going for you as a writer. You've published FAR more than me (My debut isn't out yet, going through edits right now, and they're actually FUN, go figure) and you can write short stories, something I still need to work on, and while some people have scoffed about your Work-For-Hire books, they're not easy to write well, and no one's snobbish digs at you can change the hard work you needed to write them.

    I say this in compliment to you, as someone who struggles to draft one book every couple of YEARS, and WFH books have crazy short production periods to draft, edit, and release the book, so you are a MASTER in my eyes in terms of your output, nothing I draft in a week or even a month is something I'm ready to show most beta-readers I consult.

    I say that not to be self-pitying, but because it's true. So don't dishonor that skill to both write short and draft cleanly enough to get taken seriously. I'm sure your agent would agree with me, and since I don't know him or her, that's a genuine compliment to your agent.

    I say all this a both a writer, your e-friend, and someone who used to be a snob about WFH books. But while I haven't read ones you've done, I know there are great books being written in the WFH space, I reviewed the first book in a series I suspect may be WFH but I'm not sure, but those books are great, and while they favor story over crafted prose, they take risks with characters that most WFH books don't, and somehow manage to reward longtime fans like who've read/own nearly all the books while still welcoming new readers.

    Just read the new one this morning, one of the more "out there" ones, but also a memorable one, gobbled it up and will read it again soon!

    Personally, I love blogging because I'm not bound to being in someone's box of what's "appropriate."

    Versus writing a query letter to this preordained formula that doesn't allow for much wiggle room, so I'd rather blog than deal with query letters or revise a story that doesn't unmeaningly overwhelm the young readers I want to have, but not patronize them, either.

    At best, luck gets you noticed, but it's up to you to make sure that chance is advantageous.

    That said, as someone who's debut took TEN long years to write, rewrite FOUR TIMES to sell, and it's been slow going on my current WIP, hard work is frankly a prerequisite to ANY ambition one takes on.

    Feel better and hang in there,
    Taurean (Taury)

    PS: Those interested in my review can go here-

  4. I agree that you need hard work and luck to make it in this industry. They sort of go together.

    1. Well, for my personal sanity, I only focus what I can do. I can't create luck from nothing. So I don't put stock in it, but thát's for my sanity.

      Lack of luck doesn't take away from effort on my part.

  5. When I married my husband I was already pregnant and so I didn't have a job. He had a really good job though so I was able to stay home and take care of our son when it was born. When we had our second child we moved to a bigger house, but then strange things started to happen. Things would fly off the walls and doors would slam at night. Our oldest son talked about seeing figures and hearing voices. We consulted a medium and they said the house was haunted. After living there about a year more with only minor occurrences we moved out. That was when the bad luck started to happen. Everything started to fail, with my husband's job, our money and our luck in general. I went back to the same medium and they told me that a spirit had followed me and placed a curse upon me for disturbing it and not being respectful in the previous house. He tried to remove it but was unable. The misfortune kept going on and getting more severe as I tried to search out someone to break the curse. But when I found Dr.Azonto spell he finally did it. Things started turning around almost immediately after he cast the spell and have been great from there! This was really a miracle for us, thank you . spell from the bottom of my heart!
    Posted by. miss Sandra Chali

  6. I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe! Great to connect!