Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Question is: Does Luck Believe in Me?

Every month, members of teamTEENauthor write a blog post for teens on a specific topic. March’s topic is Luck.

Photo by Ellen Datlow
Talking about being lucky, having bad luck, or getting lucky (heh) is just one of those things people say without really meaning it, right? In my opinion, "luck" is about something happening to you, good or bad, that you have little or no control over. No doubt, this kind of thing happens all the time. A bird pooping on you as you walk to a job interview: that's bad luck. Finding a $5 bill on your way to work: good luck. Having a bird poop on you while you're picking up a $5 bill: Weird.

I do believe in luck, and I believe I've had a very fortunate life. I'm not particularly religious, but it's almost impossible to buy into the idea of luck without being somewhat spiritual or superstitious. More specifically, I support the concept of karma, which simply put, means "what goes around comes around." If you do good things for others, good things will happen to you, and if you're a royal jerk, you'll get what's coming to you.

Obviously this isn't a hard and fast rule, because lots of people get away with crappy behavior all the time. My point is, why chance it? If you believe in luck as an unknown force in the universe that somehow cares whether you get a job, or a date, or a publishing contract, then why tempt fate by acting like a horrible person?

The danger in believing in luck, fate, deities, all that stuff, is that there's an impulse to trust in it and not take responsibility for your own actions. After all, what's the point in putting in any effort if it's all down to chance or the whims of a capricious god? Well, there's another saying: "God helps those who help themselves." And despite not being the most religious person around, yeah, that's what I think too. I think to a large extent we make our own luck, whether karmically by doing good deeds, or by working hard and not being a jerk and taking responsibility for ourselves so that more opportunities present themselves and we're aware of them.

There's always a certain amount of randomness in the world--that's just how it's built, and I mostly like it that way. I like surprises, the good ones, anyway. But I'm not willing to just let things happen to me. If you write a novel that way, people won't like it because your protagonist lacks agency, and real life is like that too. I try to make good things happen for me as if a) luck doesn't exist and b) luck is actively trying to screw with me. If something good happens, that's awesome, but when bad things happen, I respond and try to turn it around.

Earlier I said that luck is when something is pretty much out of your control, and a lot of being published is that way. You do as much as you can and hope for the best. School, too--you can study hard for an exam, but you can't prepare for every conceivable question. If you're lucky, the test will ask you about something you reviewed just the night or morning before, but you can also get a nasty essay that seems to come from out of nowhere. If you hadn't studied at all, you would have been in trouble in either case.

Luck exists. It's the only way I can explain some of the amazing things that have happened in my life--the friends I've met, the books I've discovered, the jobs I've landed, the novels I've sold. But in almost every instance, if I trace it back far enough, all of those great things resulted from some choice I made in my life, or a decision someone else made that had a direct impact on me--even if it took years to show some kind of positive result.

But bad luck? Psssh. None of that's my fault. Fate can be a harsh mistress.
E.C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts and raised by a single mother and a public library in Yonkers, New York. His young adult novels, Fair Coin and Quantum Coin, are available now from Pyr Books. He currently lives with his wife, two doofy cats, and a mild-mannered dog in Philadelphia and shares way too much information about his personal life at ecmyers.net and on Twitter @ecmyers.

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