Somebody once told me I was lucky. They had read in the Los Angeles Times some statistics that said most screenwriters never make a dime off their writing. In fact, it said only a quarter of one percent of all screenwriters actually make a living from their writing. Let me say it again… One quarter of one percent. That means (if my fourth grade math holds up) that out of every 400 screenwriters only one will actually make enough money to put food on their table. I made a living at it for eight years in a row. That’s why Somebody told me I was lucky.
That pissed me off.
I wasn’t lucky. I had worked damn hard to get where I was. I worked so many low-paying jobs to barely pay my rent, I couldn’t even count them. I held jobs as a receptionist (I got fired because I was ‘staring into space’ and wouldn’t hear the phone ring), a waitress (not a really good job for somebody with ADD), a telemarketer (don’t ever do this one, it’s death by boredom), a plant-watering lady (I killed most of the plants in one week, a company record), a stockbroker (had to wear heels and pantyhose), and a door-to-door luggage salesman (I chopped up my boss and drug his dismembered body around in the suitcases. Okay, not really) just to name a few. And while I worked at those menial jobs, I woke up early in the morning and wrote. I wrote during breaks. I wrote during lunch hour. Sometimes I sneaked writing while I was on the clock. I wrote after work. I stayed up all night and wrote. I had a file cabinet full of rejection slips and heartache. Luck had nothing to do with anything. I wasn’t lucky.
I don’t believe there is such a thing as luck. There’s no good luck, no bad luck, and Lady Luck is as elusive as the tooth fairy. And, if you do insist on believing there’s such a thing, let me tell you – Lady Luck is one fickle bitch.
So, what is this thing people call luck? I once read an equation:
Inspiration + Perspiration = Luck
But Somebody said, “You are lucky. Sure, you wrote stacks of screenplays, plays and books. But…” they over-enunciated, “you got a break. Some people write their whole lives and never get a break.”
Oh, my. Now I’m really pissed.
My break came when an agent had read my name in a review of a play I’d written and then recognized my name on the unsolicited screenplay that I had sent her office. She grabbed the screenplay and read the first ten pages while sitting in the dentist’s office. She was so engrossed, she read the rest of the screenplay over her Lean Cuisine dinner that night standing over her kitchen sink. She called me the next morning and said by way of introduction, “I can have you working as a screenwriter within two weeks.”
I have news for Somebody. That wasn’t luck. I created all the things that made that opportunity possible. I wrote a play that got me in the paper with a favorable review. Next, I wrote a screenplay. Then I researched prospective agents. I mailed the screenplay to those agents. I had a meeting with the agent, asked the right questions, showed her all my other work (I had stacks of plays and screenplays to show her) and got my first writing paycheck one month later.
I think of it like this: I knocked on the door. My potential agent opened the door. I walked through the door. Lady Luck wasn’t anywhere around.
I guess the moral of my little diatribe is this: If you’re a writer – write. Writers write and it’s that simple. Don’t set back on your haunches and wait for luck to knock on your door. It ain’t gonna happen. Get off your ass and write and knock on doors and write some more and don’t take no for an answer and remember if you do get a ‘no’ that just puts you one step closer to a ‘yes.’ Create opportunities everywhere you go. And, most importantly, write. Always write.
I recently saw where only ten percent of novelists make a living solely from their writing. To me that means my glass is ten percent full, not ninety percent empty.
So, here’s the last equation for thought:
Inspiration + Perspiration + Opportunity = A Working Writer
But you won’t need it.