I read this really interesting post (by Erik Calonius) the other day that my friend Lisa Schroeder had linked to on Facebook. It was about the difference between "lucky" and "unlucky" people. And one of the key points it made was the idea that people who identified as unlucky go through life so focused on finding the specific thing they're looking for that they miss other opportunities that are right in front of them. In contrast, "lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there, rather than just what they are looking for." They take advantage of serendipitous finds, shift directions, go with the flow. They keep an open mind.
Keeping an open mind has been (and continues to be) one of the great lessons I've learned from writing. I may think I know where a story is going or what a character is like, but I have to be open to letting in other possibilities. It's the difference between a manuscript surviving and not. Over and over and over again I have to be open to seeing where it wants to go, even when it may not be where I thought we were headed. Rather than a strict adherence to following the yellow brick road, it's the staying open to other possibilities that gets us to the Emerald City, and the staying open that creates the magic.
And what I love about this experience in writing is that it teaches me to be more that way in life -- to trust life's coincidences, to be open to shifting directions, to notice when the path seems to be pushing or pulling me somewhere else. It's harder in life! Scarier. But so worth it. This teacher shows me the difference between listening to my head and listening to my heart. We've been taught to be smart and logical and sensible. But what if "lucky" comes from the opposite, from trusting intuition, going with your gut, being a little bit crazy?
Expectations and fear of failure and an effort to please others can weigh us down,
like poor Randy from A Christmas Story, making it hard for us to be flexible. All those expectations cause us to put our noses to the grindstone and plow ahead, which, as it turns out, might be causing us to miss some awesome opportunities. So maybe it's time to shed all those layers that hold us back -- both in writing and in life. Mr. Calonius quotes Steve Jobs as saying, "You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."