You need three things to be a writer: talent, hard work, and luck. Writers do not like to talk about this third item as they fear that people will focus on it and forget the first two, but here's a secret: luck is perhaps the most important part. No writer succeeds without little nuggets of luck at exactly the right time. Without talent and hard work, though, luck is useless.
I was in Edinburgh on the last day of the Book Festival for a new writers' networking event – basically a big room with free wine, a few agents and publishers and other bookish people, and a lot of new writers. I bumped into a few familiar faces and had a chat, then got down to the serious business of networking – the problem, as usual, being that I have no clue how to network. I try to think of it as an excuse to drink wine and chat to some interesting new people, and that gets me through. Before I had a chance to feel nervous, the wonderful Judy Moir (my New Writers Award mentor) decided to activate her Powers of Schmooze and introduce me to some people. First up was Aly Barr of Creative Scotland.
Aly: Hello, I'm Aly.
Me: Hello, I'm Kirsty.
Aly: Are you free to do a reading at the book festival in an hour?
Me: I… uh… yes. Yes I am.
And so Aly whisked me off to the special Writers' Area (with yet more free wine and fancy toilets and all sorts of other joys), and within an hour I was standing up in front of dozens of strangers to read a story. For the rest of the day, I floated on a cloud of my own luck. I figured that this opportunity was all down to my fantastic networking skills and my own Power of Schmooze. Later I found out that Aly had spent the morning hearing someone talk up a great new writer called Kirsty who was popping up everywhere, and when he met me he decided to find out what the fuss was about. Lose one point to my schmoozing, gain one point for my ubiquity.
So yes, I was lucky. I was lucky that Judy Moir introduced me to Aly. I was lucky that Aly had a space for a writer in an event. I was lucky that some wonderful stranger liked my writing enough to tell Aly about it. But if I hadn't already done the hard work of getting my arse off the couch and into the networking event, writing all those stories, and putting out into the world so that people could read them, none of that would have happened. I'm sure you've heard that old chestnut about making your own luck, but – like most things your mother said – it's true.
Do the groundwork: write the best stories you possibly can, be tireless about getting them into the world (whether that's through magazine or anthology publication, or online literary magazines, or your own blog), and never say no to a good opportunity. Talent comes naturally, hard work can't be avoided, and luck always swings by eventually. Concentrate on the first two so that when luck comes your way you'll be ready for it.