It occurred to me the other day as I was taking a shower (one of my best places for thinking), that one of the most important things I have done in my career has been to be in the right place at the right time.
I don’t mean this in terms of karma, though that is important too. I’m not talking about that elusive you-are-where-you’re-meant-to-be Desiderata kind of thing. No, what I’m talking about is the deliberate effort to take charge of your own destiny.
Like many, if not most, writers, I am an introvert. I prefer to be alone, or to be in a select group of friends and family. I do my best thinking when I’m alone; I love to read—alone; and I write in an office separate from my house, where people can’t just ‘stumble’ upon me.
But when I was trying to figure out how to become a published author, my grandmother gave me some very good advice. “Join a writers’ group,” she said. Despite my very strong misgivings about joining a group where I knew not one single soul, I took her advice. I joined the local chapter of Romance Writers of America, and within a few months, I forced myself to step forward and volunteer to be the Newsletter Editor—which put me in contact with other Newsletter Editors across the country, and meant that I was seeing publishing news long before anyone else. I went to conferences, and there I forced myself not to stand in the corner during the many cocktail parties and author meet-and-greets, in spite of the fact that I am REALLY not good at networking. I met my first editor and my second agent at one of these conferences. I met my critique partner at a luncheon for a fellow author. I met my critique group through the Seattle Chapter of RWA. A writer I’d met at a national conference recommended me to her editor, who sought me out, which led to a four-year collaboration. At another conference I met the agent who took me out of romance and into a new career writing historical fiction.
Being in the right place at the right time doesn’t mean waiting for fate to point you down the road you’re supposed to take. It means taking chances and stepping outside your comfort zone. It means walking into a room full of strangers and finding ways to make conversation and friends. You all have something in common, after all—a love for the written word. The next time you go to a conference, don’t stand around only with your friends. Look for someone who’s standing alone, or who looks as uncomfortable as you are, which, at a writer’s conference, is probably every single person in the room. Put yourself out there, and I guarantee that eventually you will discover that you have put yourself in the right place at just the right time.
Megan Chance is the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of several novels. The Best Reviews has said she writes “Fascinating historical fiction.” Her books have been chosen for the Borders Original Voices program and IndiBound’s Booksense. A former television news photographer with a BA from Western Washington University, Megan Chance lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters. Find her at: http://www.MeganChance.com.