What If?   

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Published 29th March 2023

Here’s the thing…

Surely every creative can relate to the whispering ‘what ifs’? You know the ones: ‘What if I’m not good enough?’‘What if it never happens to me?’, and the classic, ‘what if all of this is just a complete waste of time?’ My whispers have a name: ‘the failure gremlin’. But here’s the thing: it’s time to give the gremlin a shove… 

Someone who says it better…

‘For years, kids have been asking me what’s the greatest superpower. I always say luck. If you’re lucky, everything works. I’ve been lucky.’ – Stan Lee 

Here we go then…

Thank you Stan Lee! Thank you for acknowledging your luck. I am completely sick of all this, ‘I don’t believe in luck’‘You make your own luck’‘It’s all talent and hard work’ toxicity. How arrogant must you be, if you can’t acknowledge that a little serendipity goes hand in hand with each and every success? How in denial must you be, if you can’t accept that there’s far more undiscovered talent waiting in the wings (or waiting tables) than you’ll ever get to celebrate on the stage?

Yep, I can hear some of you screaming at me­: ‘But luck will only take you so far. You need the talent. You need the commitment, and hard work!’ I’m not denying that. I’m simply saying that luck is the starting point. Luck is always the starting point. But that’s not a popular opinion, is it? For some, it means they have to admit that they’ve reached heights that don’t belong to them alone. And for the rest of us? It means we’re staying down on the floor until the illustrious ray of luck deems to flick its light in our direction. Depressing, isn’t it? Easier just to quote, ‘It’s not luck, it’s hard work’. And then go down the ‘push harder, push harder, push harder’ spiral, until you’re completely spent, no closer to your goal, whilst you continue the same monologue that ‘you can’t be working hard enough’‘it’s not enough’‘you’re not enough’. (It’s such a practiced monologue you could pop it in your rep at this point). But here’s the thing. It is enough. You are enough. You’re not a failure. Luck’s the failure. They’ve failed to find you. In this fickle game of hide-and-seek, they’ve walked right past you, and found someone else. Are they better than you? No. Maybe they were just louder? Maybe they were just jumping up and down and waving their arms? Maybe their friend told Luck exactly where to find them? (Luck loves a bit of nepotism, after all). So what do we do? When Luck’s failing to shine that little ray of light on us, what hope could we possibly find? My answer: as usual, I’m going to answer that with something a bit more creative… 

Let’s get creative…

I started this blog to embrace my creative writing, so I’m trying to challenge myself to write a poem, short story or flash fiction to accompany every post. (Makes another coffee. Procrastinates. More coffee.) Right, here goes… 

“Luck’s Lottery”

A piece of flash fiction by Chrissy Kett

Each day, from the helicopter circling above, Luck shines its spotlight on the worthy few. But Clara’s been working for so long, she’s forgotten how to play Luck’s game… 

“Stop hiding Clara,” he tells me, as he reaches out his hand. “Luck won’t find you if you just sit here.” His brown eyes try to convince me, but I return my stare to the laptop. I can’t let him distract me. 

 “Luck finds the ones that work the hardest,” I mutter, before I take another sip of coffee. 

“That’s not true,” he says. “It should be. But it’s not.” 

“So what do you want me to do?” I raise my voice. “Just give up? Give up on this, and go out there, with you? Climbing scaffolds and waving up at Luck’s helicopter?” My tone’s scathing. Cutting him, even though he’s the only one who hasn’t completely given up on me. 

“It’s the best chance we have.” He’s still so calm. “Luck can see us better up there.” 

“The light shines on 2%, that’s all. On the ones who work the hardest.” 

“But how can it shine on you, if it can’t even see you?” He takes my hand, forcing me to look back at those beautiful eyes. 

I snatch my hand away. “It’ll find me. If I finish this.” I turn my gaze back to the screen–pretending my eyes don’t sting. 

“And how many times have you finished it? How many times before it’s good enough?” 

I don’t know. But I can’t stop. I can’t stop trying. Just one more. Maybe this time… 

“Clara, please,” he begs me now. “Just try it. This once.” There’s something in his voice, that stops me. Something that whispers, ‘what if he’s right? What if Luck really does see us better up there?’

I try to focus on my screen, but the whisper just echoes – ‘what if, what if, what if?’

As he puts on his shoes, and opens the door, the whisper becomes a scream, and I can’t stop it. I can’t push it down anymore. “Wait,” I choke out.

He turns, and gives that soft smile – the one that convinces me everything will be okay, even when I know it can’t be. 

We open the door, and head out onto the street – wham. 

People. Hundreds of people clamoring in every direction. 

‘Luck! Down here!’ they scream, as they wave their arms towards the sky. 

“Clara,” his voice steadies me. “This way. Come on.” He takes my hand gently, and we’re walking up steps. So many steps. Too many steps. Up and up. On and on. I can’t. “Nearly there,” his voice pulls me to the top. 

We’re far above the street, looking down at the chaos. But from here I can see it. I can see it so clearly. Luck’s helicopter. The spotlight. The one that will shine its light down to those chosen few. 

A light to bring success and to change lives. The lucky ones never stay here. They go places. 

I look across to the other buildings. Thousands of people: jumping, waving, shouting and screaming. “There’s so many… What if it doesn’t pick us?”

 “Then we come back again tomorrow.” He smoothes back the hair blowing across my face.

“But what if Luck never picks us?” I whisper the words that haunt me every single day.

“Does that mean, we can’t enjoy the game?” His eyes tease me. 

I can’t help but smile. “No.”

He pinches my waist and gives that disarming grin. “Well then, stop hiding, and play.” 

He’s right, I’ve been hiding away for far too long. Obsessing over details that Luck won’t ever even see. After all, Luck’s game is fickle – to obsess over winning, is to lose. All we can do is just keep playing… 

Enough creativity. I’m a ‘Type A’ personality–give me a list!

Five Ways to Stop Hiding, and give a wave to Lady Luck… 

  • ‘Elbows Out!’: We Brits are so awkward. Why do you think we’re so good at comedy? You can talk about what you’re good at, without being arrogant. Stop apologising for existing. As Nadiya Hussain says, ‘Elbows out!’ (Love this interview on Graham Norton). 
  • Knowledge is Power: When everything threatens to start a spiral of negative thinking, it’s easy to go on avoidance mode. But don’t check out. Keep reading, and researching.  
  • Get Involved: You’ve got to be in it to win it. So jump into action: enter the competition, go to the audition, and ‘May the odds be ever in your favour’ (It won’t be as bad as the Hunger Games, honestly!) 
  • Top up your petrol: You’re going to burn out if you don’t make time to refill your tank. Be strategic. Even Olympians make time to rest. 
  • Share: It’s frustrating. It’s unfair. It’s fickle. So find someone you can vent to over a coffee (or something stronger). You never know, if you give them the chance to listen, they may become your greatest cheerleader. 

Let’s cut to the last eight bars shall we?

I confess I’ve stolen this from my mother-in-law, but it’s one of her many sayings that I just love. 

I’m good at ‘what if’ statements. The trouble is, as a dystopian speculative fiction writer, my ‘what ifs’ don’t tend to be very charming. (They’re a little more ‘Alice in Borderland’ and ‘Squid Game’) And you were under the impression I was a Disney and Musical Theatre kind of girl? What can I say? I want my dystopian drama, and then I want to be soothed by Minnie Mouse, Judy Garland, and excessive tap routines. (Preferably with feathers and glitter.)

So, as I step back into the ‘query trenches’ in my quest for a literary agent, is it time for a new tactic?  Instead of uttering toxic ‘what ifs’, perhaps I should take inspiration from the wonderful Kander & Ebb, channel my inner Liza, and dare to say ‘maybe this time…’ 

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About Me

Hi, I’m Chrissy! I’ve started this blog to celebrate the Arts. I’m a performer who’s taking a little break from being a ‘talking prop’, and am enjoying the teaching and writing side of things. If you want to know a little bit more about me and my writing journey check out my About page.

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