Since ya'll know I am a horse nut, and 'tis the season for watching the ponies and making the attending analogies, I thought I'd throw out the insight I had today. Without going into the long story, I got news today of a fellow illustrator friend who has barely learned how to decipher one rejection letter, has a very unlikely story, and, most recently, has had an agent and a publishing contract flop into his lap.
Talk about your charmed lives.
So it made me think of all the stories I hear surrounding racing folks large and small, from East and West who pin their hopes on a colt to win one of the Big 3 in thoroughbred racing. They train, they coddle, they painstakingly pick the jockey, they train and coddle some more. They cross their fingers and the journey finally leads to the dark clanging opening of the starting gate, with a shiny river of track just on the other side. All the careful work in the world has gotten them to this point but when the doors burst open on the other side, all the careful work in the world matters little. A wrong step in the churning dirt, a fly-away program sailing out of the heaving stands, the spicy burned smell of buttered popcorn... anything can propel their horse - or another - under the wire first. The race is won on 10% preparation and 90% luck.
The same is true in publishing I think. As an author and an illustrator you pick your story, you pick your images, you revise and revise. Train and coddle. You painstakingly choose the agents and editors to submit to and cross your fingers. But when you send that work out into the world to find a home it is 90% luck that brings it to the desk of someone who appreciates it. The winner's circle is often filled with upsets and long shots. The sidelines are filled with athletes and people who have great potential but who's luck ran out seconds from the wire. That trip back to the drawing table is painful and frustrating. But in games of chance like horseracing and publishing, you've got no choice but to keep writing and drawing, training and coddling, and hope that the next time luck rides with you.