Writing Success: Five Insights on the Role of Luck

Or why you can stop beating yourself up for not succeeding

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Image courtesy of the author (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Have you heard of pachinko? It’s a cross between a pinball machine and a slot machine and it’s all the rage among gamblers in Japan. It involves a set of small steel balls which you, as a player, put into a tray and then launch onto a vertical playing field using a spring-loaded lever. By adjusting the pressure on the lever, you can control the force with which each ball is launched. And that’s just about all the control you have over the game. Once you’ve launched a ball, all you can do is watch how it randomly ricochets back down between hundreds of brass pins. If you’re lucky, the ball lands in a small hole at the bottom of the playing field — called the winning pocket — and you’ll win.

Having success as a writer is pretty much the same as playing pachinko. The stories you write are your steel balls and when you publish them you’re launching them out onto the world. After that, how they bounce around in the pachinko machine — whether that’s Medium, the blogosphere, social media, or the Internet at large — is out of your control. All you can do is lean back and watch. If you’re lucky, your story will end up in the winning pocket and go viral. More likely than not, it will just be swallowed by the machine.

This realization — that the writing game is a game of chance — can give you several insights.


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