Posted December 18, 2013 at 10:14 am in publishing
So I’m going to talk to you guys about luck.
In this profession, as published authors, as women, we’re encouraged to smile modestly and duck our heads and say “Well, I got very lucky.” I admit, I have done this many times when someone praised my work. I’m uncomfortable with praise like that, and my entire first year as an author was spent learning to just say “thank you.” But every time the words “I don’t know, just lucky, I guess” escaped my lips, I felt a little bit worse about myself, about my achievements. Citing luck made me begin to think it really was luck, and had nothing to do with the fact that I decided to be an author at four years old and have been working toward it ever since.
Because that’s the most insidious part of this particular societal expectation: we actually train ourselves to believe that we just got lucky.
As authors, but particularly as female authors, we’re expected to diminish our accomplishments and attribute our success to fate or luck. Just the right manuscript hitting the market at the right time, through an absolutely random series of events. It’s considered bragging or self-aggrandizement to admit to having worked your ass off for years to get where you are.
Society prefers to view women as passive and receptive, not as ambitious people in their own right who have goals and set out to reach them. Girls should be modest and self-effacing. Masters of self-abnegation. Minimizing our accomplishments makes us seem more feminine, more demure. Sweeter. Prettier. Gentler.
Ambition is a masculine trait. Achievement is aggressive. Success, on a woman, isn’t sexy.
This is bullshit.
Why is it arrogant to say that you overcame obstacles? Why is it bragging to admit that the reason you’re published and someone else isn’t is because you didn’t give up? Why does it make us less woman to tell the truth about how we got to where we are? Why do we cheapen ourselves for the sake of appearances?
Because saying “I was lucky” cheapens the work you’ve done, and it cheapens the work of other authors. You can’t claim your success was due to luck without implying theirs was, too. Citing luck cheapens the drive in your heart, that voice that continually tells you to do better, to be better. It cheapens the part of your soul that pushes you on to greater things.
Most of all, it cheapens the aspirations of those to follow you. Tell an aspiring writer that you got lucky, and they’re going to spend their days hoping that a blue fairy will come down out of the sky one night and whisk them away to fame and fortune. They’ll be waiting forever.
Tell them you worked hard. Tell them it was awful, a lot of the time, and that most days you felt like you’d never get there. But tell them that you kept slogging through because you knew this was what you wanted. Tell them that you were ambitious, and that you still are, and that this drive is what makes you better. Tell them you fought for what you have.
Don’t just smile coyly and say, “Lucky, I guess.” Let young girls see us taking credit for our hard work. Let them realize that it’s not only okay to work hard, it’s okay to talk about it. Let them see us being ambitious and pushing ourselves to be better all the time. Let them grow up watching women who aren’t afraid to say “Yes, I did that. That was me.”
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