Luck Favors the Bold

I’m staying on the marathon-writing topic this weekend. Chris Benton just commented on a previous post and it made me think.

He said:

“Your championing of marathon writing and your theory of betting bacon is refreshing. One must remember that the so-called giants of literature were marathon writers. Dostoyevsky wrote his great novels in monthly installments to pay off his gambling debts. Sometimes, certain specie of desperation smuggles quality into the quantity as well.”

The part I want to focus on is: certain specie of desperation smuggles quality into the quantity as well.

This is true, but it made me wonder how desperation can bring quality into the work. Then I started thinking about poker and the saying “Luck favors the bold.”

In poker, strangely enough, luck does tend to favor the bold. When you play it safe, you just don’t seem to get lucky. You might win some hands when you know it is a sure thing, after calculating all the odds in your head, but you never seem to get lucky very often. When you play poker boldly, things become magical. Sometimes you’ll have a crap hand, but happen to play it with the confidence that you’re going to get lucky…and then it happens: luck strikes. The more skill and confidence you have the more likely it will strike.

It’s the same with marathon writing. If you put yourself up in a hotel for three days to write 100 pages with the confidence that you’re going to write something of quality, then (like with poker) magic tends to happen. For some inexplicable reason you will strike brilliance* here and there….the kind of brilliance that normally would have taken you months of planning and brainstorming to equal (which isn’t as satisfying or magical). The more skilled you are as a writer, (especially once plotting and characterization are second nature to you) the more likely this is going to happen. But even if you aren’t that skilled, it’s still worth approaching this way. By writing boldly and forcing yourself to accomplish a lot of work in short periods of time, you will be gaining skills and grow confidence in your abilities. The more confidence you have, the bolder you become, and the bolder you are the more likely you will get lucky and strike brilliance.

I’d also like to mention something that Stephen Graham Jones commented on my Quality vs. Quantity rant. He said that by focusing on writing a lot of stories and books you’re more likely to get lucky with one of them and stumble onto something brilliant.

So, my advice is: be bold. Focus on bold ideas for your books, write them using bold methods (such as marathoning), and be bold about getting published (like, if you’re interested in being a bizarro writer, move to Portland and get involved in the bizarro scene where you will probably interact with bizarro editors, writers, and publishers on a weekly basis). If you want to be a full-time writer then don’t give yourself a safety net. Quit that day job, or at least get an easy part time job where you can spend most of your time writing, and then make it happen. Just live boldly and (for some reason that I don’t quite understand) you will get lucky. It’s just the way things work in this universe.

* By the way, when I say brilliance I’m not talking about earth-shattering genius or anything. I’m just talking about writing something that really shines. Something that you’re so happy with that you’re surprised you were the one who wrote it.

One Response to “Luck Favors the Bold”

  1. Chris Benton Says:

    Great analogous expansion, Carlton. If you don’t have the balls to pursue the hand that your imagination deals you, then you are royally fucked on all sides of the creative table. Most aspiring writers fold early on in the game because they’re afraid to lose. They never realize that this fear is the true loss…

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