Paul Potts won Britain’s Got Talent in 2007, winning over the entire stadium with his first rendition of Nessun Dorma. A simple manager of Carphone Warehouse. ‘A lucky overnight success’ screamed the newspapers… But he’d been performing in amateur operatics for years. That voice, that power, it requires practice. It is not luck.
So what is it? Its the willingness to try time after time of being rejected, disparaged for your goals and dreams, the ability to look at your work and see that really – it’s rather shit… but having the willingness to train, to learn, to hear criticism and question, truly question whether there is any nugget of gold to be had. To practice. To be determined. To learn from your failures. And to see them simply as stepping stones to where you want to go. But even this requires enormous practice. Luck requires practice. Joy requires practice.
Lately I expressed my gratitude for my wonderful life in a Facebook status.
Every year I look back and think ‘this has been the most amazing year of my life’. and every year I also think ‘it’s impossible to imagine and I can’t know how, but the next one will be even better.’
And amid the ‘likes’ that validate such a status, came back a comment from one friend ‘Lucky you’…which stopped me short.
Lucky to have gone through a tumour, diabetes and anemia? Lucky to have been on unpaid leave for two months which undermined our finances and forced my partner to work that much harder? Lucky to have been unemployed for far longer as a freelancer and couldn’t work because I was sick for four months before the diagnosis? Lucky to have had my boyfriend diagnosed with cancer and go through a life risking liver transplant? Lucky to have had my father cut all ties with with me because of my ‘honest’ writing? Really?
I believe in re-framing what others call unlucky and lucky. I believe in changing the narrative. It’s what I’ve been doing for the past year through this blog. My illnesses brought me a huge appreciation for life. They taught me to treat myself better instead of running on empty. My poor finances taught me that so many things we think we need, we do not. My boyfriend’s operation brought me an astounding respect for western medicine (I mean really, they stopped him living for a time and rejigged his whole system… it’s literally incredible). My father’s dismissal of our relationship has brought me the gift of unparalleled freedom in the expression of my voice. A lot of what happened this year has helped me sort out my priorities.
So, this year my book has been picked up for publication, my articles have gone viral in at least 4 internationally renowned magazines, new readers have flocked to my blog. But back in 1999 when I started writing, I can safely say it was awful (one day I’ll publish my first attempt so you can see how truly awful it was). I can also say that overnight successes do not exist.
I’ve had almost 100 rejection letters this year from magazines and publishers. So many more haven’t even replied… which goes someway to showing you how many letters, pitches and proposals I’ve sent. And every time, I have steeled myself and said ‘Hurrah’… one more ‘no’ is closer to my ‘yes’, until the reaction came naturally.
And the ‘yes’ when it came, was without fanfare… more of an ‘oh okay’ and involved no huge advance, but the golden chance to participate in a crowdfunding exercise to raise money for the publication of several books including mine. Those people who are participating with me, have also worked bloody hard for years before I knew them. Over the past three weeks we’ve managed to raise almost $11,000 to cover printing costs by a constant stream of content, interviews, guest posts, tweeting, reaching out to celebrities who mostly ignored us. (Thanks to Neil Gaiman, Erica Jong and Chris Manby who didn’t). I’ve written an extra bonus book, gone through re-writes, edits, re-edits. And it’s not over yet.
Because luck is being in the right place, at the right time, which means that you have to be present in all the places, at all the times as far as you are able.
I’m 100% responsible for my experience of my life. And my experience is that this year has been full of miracles. But miracles do not fall from the heavens. They are everywhere… but only if you have eyes to see them. And they are often the silver lining to a very dark cloud. But I have a little voice inside me saying ‘Keep going. Find the silver lining. What can you learn from this? How can you see this as a positive thing? What can you use out of this to help yourself and help others?’ That voice is mine. That voice is me.
I do have a wonderful, miracle filled life and I am so grateful for it. My cup is not half empty or even half full. It is overflowing with joy. But I have chosen to see it that way, chosen to take the risks and accept the consequences. It is often not easy to see what happens in life as wonderful. It takes practice. Day after day, week after week, year after year.