I’m going to tell you a gaming story. But it isn’t really about gaming. It is just the best way for me to express why I’m angry. Okay. Not angry. Just… irritated.
Irritated because there are a few, truly lucky people in the world.
But I’m not one of them. And resent the implication that I am.
Irritated because, sometimes, people get something for nothing.
But I’m not one of them. And resent the implication that I am.
Irritated because I’m damn proud to be who I am, damn proud of everything I’ve done to get here, and damn proud of my determination to keep climbing up.
I am one of those people. And suggesting I’m just lucky is an attempt to cheapen everything I’ve done to get here.
This is a real life post, but I’m using a game because it is so much easier to get a big picture. I used to play WoW (World of Warcraft). I don’t anymore for personal reasons, part of which includes locking on to a dream which transcends the desire to disappear into someone else’s fictional world; I want to create my own. I didn’t play WoW for the raiding, I didn’t do PvP. It’s not my thing to go around knocking other people off their horses and, quite honestly, I want you to know, if you happen to be one of those people that thinks that means I shouldn’t play the game, perhaps you should take time for yourself to consider why you insist such a huge, open game (life), with so many alternate realities, would be better if everyone did it exactly the same way. Because that sounds pretty boring to me.
But this isn’t about trolls in the game. This is about about the way I live my life. I game like I live. I’m a collector of beautiful things – and not all those things are objects that can be owned. I’m that girl who sees what she wants and will go after it, day in, day out, week after week, year after year, until she gets that thing. Maybe I change my mind sometimes. Mostly I don’t because this is me: I do a bunch of research, ask myself if I really like this thing and think it is pretty enough to dedicate myself to, ask myself a bunch more questions about motives, ask other people who have the thing what they think about it, and, finally, decide I want said thing. Which is the same as saying I have now decided that no power on earth will dissuade me. I have a stalker personality, luckily, I learned young not to seize up on people rather than goals. Once I lock on, I don’t know how to tag out. Not without a whole lot of reason. The goal may change a little. The course may not quite be the one I thought I would take. But, by god, I am willing to play the long game because I will succeed.
I am one of those people.
So, in WoW, there was something that used to get to me, way more than someone trying to force me to play the game their way or force their bad decisions on me and question my loyalty when I refused. It got to me even more than the drama people bring to this place where everything is just pixels and play… or should be. And that thing is a word. One. Word.
I don’t hate the word for what it is. I hate it for what it does.
I hate it because it steals the validity of a person’s hard work, because it implies that somehow I, or someone else, has cheated, even if indirectly, and because it makes it okay to laugh behind your hand at someone who has done what you could not and devalue everything they’ve gone through to get there. Let’s be real super, uber clear darlings. If you are not willing to do what I did, if you are not willing to go through everything it took to get there, then you do not really want it. And that is not my fault. I will not take responsibility for you not magically getting everything you want without chasing it down like a starving tiger.
Let me explain a few gamer things. I have mounts (horses, dragons, flaming winged lions, that sort of mount). I collect lots of things, battle pets, clothes (cause they were pretty), hunter pets, toys, but mostly mounts. And I have a few that are legendary for their rarity. The Headless Horseman’s mount. The Fiery Warhorse. Invincible. Only one of those was luck. I have Onyxia’s mount, I have the yellow and pink make a wish phoenix (Ashes of Al’ar), and the dragon from the Throne of the Four Winds. Only one of those was luck. I have over a hundred mounts, including Huolon’s (dear How Long, I do miss you) lightning sheathed spawn. I can keep listing them and still count lucky with one hand whilst missing a finger or two.
And yet. I heard it over and over again. Every time a mount dropped or I came across that hunter pet, like the ghost tiger. You are so lucky. Usually spoken with a bitter inflection. Spoken as though I somehow tricked the game or rolled an ace when I rolled my account. Or was sleeping with someone who gave me everything I wanted in return. Any attempt to explain mathematics and the laws of probability was promptly shut down by the anger that I had what they didn’t. So let me give you a hit of reality, princess. You all know who you are, because this isn’t a post about a game. This is a post about life. And the people who scoff at hard work are always there.
Lucky comes easy. Lucky means you don’t appreciate what you have because you didn’t work to get there. Lucky expects to be lucky and never quite knows what to do when they have a bad run. And that’s just fine. For them. But using the word lucky for someone like me is like saying you didn’t want to win just because you lost.
Quick WoW game mechanics. You can run dungeons about ten times an hour and raids, no matter how old they are, once a week. And all the best mounts are in raids or dropped by a world boss like Houlon, a black dragon covered in lightning. Invincible is a skeletal, undead horse notoriously difficult to get because the raid that drops him has a 1% chance (maybe more now, but I doubt by much). Stay with me, this isn’t about the game. Invincible’s drop rate can be applied to pretty much all the big wows in real life. You want to guess the number of people that truly succeed in pretty much any portion of life and their chances of actually getting that success before they chased it down and tackled it like a lioness on a zebra?
Oh, I’ve been trying to get Invincible for years! I’m just unlucky. You don’t know what that’s like! No. You aren’t unlucky. You’re lazy. Yes, I said it. Lazy. You, every once in a while, go into Icecrown and run through thinking today is your lucky day. And when it isn’t, you spend the next three weeks pouting and hating someone else for having the damn horse. In all, you have spent less than a year trying to get that horse and more than one pouting about not having it. Or being mad about that guild run when it dropped, everyone rolled, and you didn’t win. Instead of accepting that it wasn’t your time, you felt sorry for yourself. You should have been clomping back in there next week and trying again. And again. And one more time. What’s more, if you really wanted it, you’d have done just that and you would have done it on every character you have.
Oh, you are just lucky, nobody gets the Horseman’s Reins. Oh dearheart. Would you like a detailed rundown of the year and a month I spent planning my week around the raids I was doing just to get mounts I wanted? How about those three days where I ran the Deepholm dungeon over and over, as many times as I could per hour, to get the spiky dragon? Or the two weeks I spent on Timeless Isle camping How Long? Well, that one wasn’t work; I met some amazing friends and we had so many laughs that, sometimes, Houlon would spawn and I’d be surprised it was time. Because that is me. If we are all going to be sitting here, lets have some fun, lets make some memories, and, most of all, lets cheer for those who get the mount. Because that is what life is really about. This big, weird journey where, sometimes, you find yourself sitting on a flipping hill, waiting for a dragon with twenty other people. You can whine that the dragon isn’t coming or mope because you didn’t get the treasure, or you can make some friends, have some fun, and realize the treasure is only a small part of this game of life. And I made some very real friends waiting for that dragon. I plan on making a hell of a lot more chasing my new dragon.
But that doesn’t mean I ever let go of my goal. It just means I have to be here if I want it, so you better believe I’m going to make it as fun as I can. Which is why I got 99% of the mounts I wanted. It was work. But I enjoyed doing it, so it was also play. I’ll write another post about that, sometime. That last 1% was just me finally locking on to my real dream and deciding I want to succeed at writing rather than continue to chase pixels. Sometimes you sacrifice the smaller goals for the larger. But. While I was playing, I was getting whatever I decided I wanted. Some people want high PvP scores, I wanted a dragon with purple crystals coming out of its back. I don’t have the biggest collection; I rarely have the gold for an expensive mount, though many kind people have given me gifts – also not luck, but a fantastic bunch of friends. But, in my collection, is more than one mount that makes people suggest I’m stupid lucky and shuffle off, not sure they can stand being around someone so blessed. No, my dear. It didn’t work like that. I’m stubborn and I have a deal with the loot gods. I’ll come back as often as I can and, eventually, they will give me what I want. If only to get rid of me. Which is a really funny way of saying I understand mathematics. And what those people were really shuffling off from was the suggestion that they take a good look at themselves and decide what they want instead of moaning about what I have. They were being spoiled little jerks determined to drag everyone else down into self hate and envy land and, again, that is more about life than about games.
So, just a quick and dirty rundown on the mechanics of ‘luck’. If you have a wheel upon which there is a tiny, one percent wedge of jackpot, there is always a chance of rolling that jackpot. Always that single chance, when the wheel is spun, that it will land on the big number wedge. And the law of mathematics says, at some point, for reasons too scientific to explain without words longer than your arm and a decent working knowledge of physics, that wheel will land on that wedge. It is inevitable. How many times do you have to spin? You’re asking the wrong question. The right one is how many times are you willing to spin it? For me, the answer is ‘as many times as it takes’. Because, at some point, that wheel will land where I want it to. How long it takes is not my business. If I want that jackpot, in my mind, I can’t afford to care about how long. I just have to accept that Mathematics is always right, know that the laws mean, eventually, it must happen, and keep spinning because that is my business. Or, I can turn into a whiny bitch after one spin, or a hundred, and walk around blaming others because they have it – and it doesn’t matter if they spun once or a thousand times, they are so lucky – and I don’t. But that is far more unlikely than the drop rate for success. See, I’ll spin a thousand. Or two. Or three, if that is what it takes. I don’t quit.
Because I am one of those people.
Usually, it does not take a thousand spins. I figure the loot gods give it to me after a hundred because they know I’m just going to keep showing up, smile in place, week after week, year after year, sword drawn and boots on, until what I want is in my bank. I don’t get attached to the destination. I try to love the journey. I put myself in that rhythm and nothing can stop me because it is just a part of how I live my life. And the truly weird part? When the mount drops I will have a moment where I realize I’ve got to find another raid dropping a mount I want so that my weekly routine is not broken. I enjoy what I do. I love my work.
I’m not a fan of the phrase ‘I make my own luck’. It’s sort of cheesy and silly and doesn’t sound nearly as tough when a normal person says it rather than someone like Bond. But we all really do make our own luck. With the exception of those chosen few born to it and here is how I challenge any bitterness toward them.
Are they really lucky? Are they? They will never know the elation of that big win, that spin number 2694 when everything aligns and jackpot drops. They will never appreciate their luck because it is always there. The mounts that were pure luck on my list? The horseman’s mount. And I was leveling up characters like mad to have enough for a decent shot, so I still did the work. And the Ashes of Al’ar (make-a-wish bird) where I stomped into the raid in pure fury because someone threatened to stop being friends with a friend of mine if she happened to get it before him even though she was showing up every week rather than once a month like him. Think of that as the guy in the office who calls in sick two or three times a month and gets pissed because you got a promotion he wanted, if that makes it more real for you. And I was furious. I was going to go after Ashes with a vengeance because I am flawed and sometimes get really mean toward people like that. It dropped on my first run. I still believe the loot gods threw that one to me the way you’d throw your steak down to a man eating tiger that had you cornered up a tree. I scared a lot of people that day. I still regret I couldn’t trade it to my friend who was doing the work, that I didn’t drag her along. Those aren’t my only luck mounts, but pretty close. I also once tripped across the Deepholm dragon after two weeks of camping him in my spare time because my friend and raid partner lost power for ten minutes and I decided to check.
But maybe you aren’t a gamer and you don’t understand the obsession with mounts. So let me put this another way.
DO NOT look at me and tell how lucky I am that I have five books on the market. That isn’t luck. That was hard goddamned work. The book fairy did not drop onto my desk and write those thousands of pages for me.
DO NOT talk about how many people like my posts and suggest that it had something to do with dumb luck. I try to inspire and I try to write in an entertaining manner because I am looking for readers for my books. If you like it, AWESOME, if not, that’s alright too.
DO NOT suggest that just because I am good at my job, I have somehow won a chance roll. I love to read and I love to write. But I work at that writing. I don’t just write it once and publish the first draft. Or the second or third.
I work. Two words that everyone who does anything creative ought to be well acquainted with. I do not decide, once a week or so, to get on my computer and mash a few buttons hoping for a word or a sentence. Remember that saying about the monkey on the typewriter eventually writing Shakespeare? Let me share with you a quote from a famous author – and I wish I could remember which one – who had a very dry and simple observation any writer will understand painfully well. “But would the words be in the right order?”
DO NOT try to convince me to quit just because you can’t see how I’m going to get something you can’t. I will prove to you I can. And then I will promptly tell you what to do with yourself when the word ‘luck’ comes falling out of your mouth. Here’s a hint. They rhyme.
DO NOT call me lucky. Call me diligent, stubborn, scarily focused, obsessive compulsive, or just plain crazy. But not lucky. Yes. My muse shows up pretty much every single day, now. That isn’t luck either. I took that bull by the proverbial horns and basically hung on until it quit ramming me into walls.
I did better than that.
I talked to the bull, yelled at the bull, tried to beat the bull to death, tried to bribe it with hay and sugar cubes, and, eventually, made that damn bull my friend. I am developing a whole program for writers based on what I’ve learned about writer’s block and how to get around it, through it, over it, under it, or, failing all else, apparate past it. You can join the program and I will personally coach you through the madness because I know the mechanics and I want to share my hard won knowledge. Just don’t expect me to do it for free; I have dogs to feed and a car payment to make. And don’t think I’m going to baby you. Do your work. I’ll do mine. Before you know it, you’ll be just like me, writing every single day for eight to ten hours a day with more on tap than you ever imagined you could possess – or in whatever manner actually suits you.
But. You better understand this. On those days when my muse doesn’t show up? I still freaking do and I don’t pause long enough to whine about why I want to go play video games instead. I have character blogs, I have patrons to satisfy (only one very awesome patron at the moment, but that is going to change pretty quick), and I have you fine people I enjoy writing to. I point myself at the goal, get on the horse, and keep moving forward. I show up and I get to work and, eventually, my muse shows up to tell me I’m doing it all wrong. I am not lucky. I am glad I’m not lucky. Because I know just how hard I worked to get where I am and I know just how much harder I am willing to work to get where I want to be. I understand and appreciate that there is always a way to get better, that I don’t know enough and never will. I’m okay with that because that means I’m willing to keep pushing for more. I don’t want to just create a story. I want to give you life in words. I want to give you books you come back to when you’re sad or your life is changing, or just because you want to visit your favorite characters. I want to be a bestselling author and I want to do it knowing I was present for every single step, that I gave my best, and that I chose every moment and luck was never exactly invited to the party or expected to RSVP. If he showed up, it was as someone’s plus one and he was welcome, treated kindly, but never, ever expected to wash the dishes or come back for game night. For me, it is not a question of if. It is only a question of when and, baby, the only way to stop me is to kill me. Pretty sure, even then, I’ll be down in my dungeon, typing away, scaring the new owners. Or looking for someone to possess so I can keep on writing. Yes, I’m aware I am frightening. I’m one of those people, too.
How hard will I chase this dream? How often will I show up with my sword in hand and a smile on my face? As often as I’m allowed, my friend. And no-one, not my family, not my friends, not my haters, not even God will stop me. I do not pity the person that gets in my way. But I will pause as I ride over them on my undead horse to wish they had read this post and had the sense to move. And if you want to ride along with me, you are most welcome. BYOS. Bring Your Own Sword.