What Lucky Looks Like
March 27, 2015 § 25 Comments
Writer, actor, and rock-n-roll gypsy Tawni Waters unleashes her inner crankiness on one of those boorish men who explain things to “the ladies”:
A few weeks ago, a man approached me at a social event, congratulated me on my recent book sales, then proceeded to tell me how “lucky” I am. He pointed out that there are thousands of talented writers out there, but most of them aren’t as “lucky” as me. His tone was condescending and judgmental, as if I’d won the lottery and was being flippant about poverty.
He was about the zillionth person to say something like this since I got my first book deal. For the record, I’d like to explain what “lucky” looks like if you’re Tawni. I sold my first story when I was 18. I sold my first novel when I was 42. Between the ages of 18 and 42, I wrote constantly. The book I sold was one of five I’d completed. I got rejected literally thousands of times. I went to classes and conferences and retreats regularly to hone my craft. I got a BA in English with and emphasis on creative writing and graduated with an almost perfect GPA. I then got an MFA in fiction writing. I graduated with a 4.0 and distinction. I lived below the poverty line for much of this time because I loved my art form so much, I wasn’t willing to give it up even though it looked like I was a failure. I was embarrassed most of the time when people asked me what I did for a living, because if you are a writer who hasn’t sold books, many people think you’re a slacker no matter how hard you work. I can’t even begin to describe how many times I fought off utter despair and found the courage to keep trying in the face of nearly impossible odds. I met the agent who sold my book at a conference at which I was teaching, which means I’d sold enough short work and won enough awards to get hired to teach at a conference. In short, I sacrificed for many years and worked my ass off so I could get “lucky.” Every other writer I know who has managed to make a career of it has the same story. Very, very few of us are just talented and lucky.
One out of every ten-thousand books written sells to a mainstream publisher, so walking up to a writer who has done this and lecturing her on how “lucky” she is is kinda like walking up to a surgeon and telling him how lucky he is because lots of other people have an interest in science but were never lucky enough to become surgeons. He wasn’t lucky. He worked his ass off. So did I.
The moral of this rant: Next person who gives me a condescending lecture on how lucky I am gets punched in the junk.
Tawni Waters is an writer, actor, teacher, and gypsy.Her first YA novel, Beauty of the Broken, was published by Simon Pulse in 2014 and was named an Exceptional Book of 2015 by the Children’s Book Council. Her first poetry book, Siren Song, was published by Burlesque Press in the same year. Her work has been seen in myriad magazines, journals, newspapers, and anthologies, including Best Travel Writing 2010 and Bridal Guide Magazine. She teaches creative writing in Phoenix, Arizona. In her spare time, she talks to angels, humanely evicts spiders from her floorboards, and plays Magdalene to a minor rock god.