Category: Another Writing Project

Newspaper column-sized, non-fiction articles posted, on a weekly basis, on “Another Writing Project,” from May 2011–May 2012, a year-long creative writing project.

48. Luck or good fortune?

Luck, or good fortune. It’s all the same, isn’t it?

WE ALL HAVE HIGHS AND LOWS, emotional, personal, and professional mountain peaks and valleys, but we too easily recall the downside of situations and consider good fortune “luck” when luck often has little to do with results.

It’s as if we expect the worst and so we thank our lucky stars for good outcome.

Most likely, easy recollection of negative outcomes served us well back in the day when we relied on our fight-or-flight response for daily survival. (Best to remember that a tiger was seen skulking around the watering hole, over the mound of berries we collected for last night’s dinner.) So, we invented the concept that we could thank our lucky stars for things that turned in our favour.

Last year, when another vehicle slammed into the side of my car, I was told over and over how lucky I was. With the car’s frame twisted and bent, the dash crunched, and my own body bruised and injured, I had a hard time accepting this event as any form of luck. A near miss would have made me lucky, but at every turn–on the scene, at the hospital, at the physiotherapy clinic, inevitably someone responded with what was sounding to me like a pat phrase: “you’re lucky.” What they meant, of course, the EMS worker, the ER nurse, the ER physician, my family doctor, co-workers, and colleagues, was that I was lucky it wasn’t worse.

I told friends that luck would have had the other driver running a red light after I cleared the intersection.

As I recovered, I thought about the meaning of luck and better understood this well-meaning comment could also stand in for something else, something more embittered and disingenuous.

Sometimes, we mean it derisively. “You’re lucky,” can be an implied insult, or to lightly veil snarkiness when what we really mean is that the person we’re calling “lucky” is not deserving of whatever good fortune has been bestowed on them. As if they didn’t work for, or somehow haven’t earned, whatever opportunity they’ve been awarded.

I heard this “luck” thing many times when I was worked as a freelance/contract technical writer. In many cases, as a self-employed writer, I often worked from home and earned enough annual income in eight months to take four off. In my down time, I wrote. I got up every day and wrote; I blogged, I created a website, I submitted stories to literary publications. In short, I worked on my side career as a fiction writer and poet. And I tried, unsuccessfully, to get a freelance magazine writing career off the ground for almost a decade.

Sure, I felt lucky. It’s not as if I didn’t count my blessings. After all, I was well-versed in the routine of 9-5 office work, so I understood what a blessing it was to make my own hours, to work in my home office, to have a choice to work full-tilt in order to get chunks of time away from the corporate world. But, that’s not luck, that’s planning.

Somewhere along the way, I learned to find this “luck” thing amusing.

It irritated me when folks remarked on my luck, is if happenstance was the root of any good fortune I had. As if luck had something to do with obtaining writing contracts. A strong skill set and full resume took care of that end of things. Sure, some contracts were lucrative, but employment agencies also took high percentages of my hourly wage. That’s business. Luck is what some folks also called my time off between writing gigs. I called it unemployment. And about my “lucky” wage? When the market could take the hit, I charged more per hour. This was the result of good negotiation skills, and timing. When was the last time you heard someone call a lawyer “lucky” for billing $200 per hour?

With self-employment came tax write-offs. Luck? No. A thorough and competent accountant.

Any success or advantage I gained was the result of hard work. Well that, and a strong work ethic, and an ability to work with diverse groups of people, a willingness to compromise, to work weekends and weeknights, an adaptable skill set, and a commitment to continued professional development, to name a few things that helped.

While I often feel as if I were born “under a lucky star,” no such intangible thing earns anyone success in any endeavour.

I no longer respond to arguments about my luck because there’s a certain truth to the viewpoint that you make your own.