Luck and the Successful Writer

In the early 2000s, writer Doug Aitchison was struggling to get his screenplay Akeelah and the Bee produced. It had already won a prestigious Nichol Fellowship in Screenwriting. Producer Sid Ganis discovered it thanks to that award, but he was having little luck in getting studio interest or funding. After all, this was a story about a spelling bee starring a young African American girl – not what you’d call big budget Hollywood entertainment!

 

Gains did manage to get the script to Lawrence Fishburne through his agent, but he heard nothing back. Fishburne likely had dozens of script piled on his desk, and he had no reason to read one from a writer with no track record.

But then, to paraphrase Frank Sinatra, luck was a lady to Doug Aitchison. One day, he was walking his dog in the Hollywood Hills when he saw a familiar face approaching – Lawrence Fishburne, who was walking his own dogs. Aitchison knew this was his moment.

Writer Julia Cameron writes, “I don’t believe in luck. I do believe in synchronicity.” She goes on, “Luck is passive. We trigger synchronicity. We trigger it through risk.” Aitchison took the risk of approaching a major star he had never met before. He politely introduced himself. Fishburne remembered Akeelah and the Bee, and promised to take a closer look at it. He ended up producing and starring in it.

Every writer has luck or synchronicity. Sometimes risk pays off, many times it doesn’t. You send out 50 query letters and one agent asks for your pages. Partly it’s because you wrote a good letter, but you may have also contacted her on a good day with just the kind of story she liked.

If your hobby is skydiving, the consequences of taking a risk may be bad. But if you’re well trained and prepared, the chances of success are much better. If you’re a writer, there’s seldom a serious downside to stepping out of your comfort zone and taking a risk. Perhaps you’ll be walking your dog and meet the person who makes you career take off. If you’ve prepared, if the manuscript in your hand is damned good, you’ve increased your odds that synchronicity will turn into success. Luck my just be a lady tonight.

Try it. What do you have to lose?

Best wishes,

Kelee

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