Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Sunday 11 February 2018

The harder I work, the luckier I get

I have never met Sarah Pinborough, but I hope to, one day.

Ms Pinborough and I know a little of each other. I like her… I like her, and I like her work.

When I think about success, and I mean success in almost any field, I think of two things. Firstly, I think of that old idea that success has three components: talent, punctuality and popularity. In short, to be successful you need to display two of these three traits all of the time. You can be terrible company if you happen to be talented and punctual. You can be endlessly late if you’re talented and people like you. If you’re nice and on time, you don’t need a whole heap of talent, and so on.

The second thing I think of when I think of success is a little adage that I use on young people a good deal. I tell them that the harder they work the luckier they’ll get. Of course, by this I mean that working hard at being talented, punctual and nice, and working hard at what they do, being conscientious and getting on with the job is the most effective way to ensure good results. 

I would like to think that this applies to everyone, but, of course, it doesn’t.

I know plenty of people in the business of writing, some of them full-time, some part-time, many published, and many of them are men. Some of these men are talented, some punctual, and some of them are even nice. The truth is though, that, for the most part, they don’t need to display two of these three traits at any given time to succeed.

Men can be arrogant, lazy, difficult, alienating, demanding… They can be whatever they want to be, but if they can do a workmanlike job and they have the right contacts, they can succeed. I know this to be true of writers just as I know it to be true in all fields of endeavour. Men are forgiven, their peccadilloes excused, for no better reason than because they are men.

Some of the male writers I know will read this and fume, and some will bluster, and that’s ok. One or two will tell you that they are not like that. They will tell you that they work hard, that they are punctual and that they try to be decent human beings. Well, of course there are men like that, not for nothing, I’m married to one of them… That isn’t my argument.

My argument is that I also know women in the business of writing who are talented, punctual and lovely, who cannot catch a break. I know that women have to qualify in countless other ways to succeed in any field. Two out of three traits, isn’t going to cut it. Three out of three traits isn’t going to cut it. Women simply have to bring a good deal more to the table.

In some ways, I’m a good example of this, and in some ways not. I do not pursue this career hard enough to count. On the other hand, I know that I am considered difficult, and it is because I do what men do.

Yes, in many ways, I am nice and I am respectful, qualities that few men have to think about, but I’m also considered to be intimidating, bossy and opinionated. In short, I am considered difficult. If I were a man, I would be thought of as strong, clever, and forthright… I am not. 

I was once told, by another woman, that if I was asked what I bring to the table, I should answer that I bring the table. Can you imagine what the response might be if I ever actually did that? If I was a man, the response would probably be a little laughter and a touch of awe; as a woman, the best response I could expect might be confusion, but this answer would almost certainly alienate, and it might even be met with ridicule.

It is hard for women to succeed. I’m saying it, and there are those who might disagree, but the proof is in the statistics. More men succeed than do women in all walks of life, in all professions, in all endeavours. This suggests to me that men have an advantage, or, more likely, a whole raft of advantages.

When women do succeed it always comes at some cost. Women's success is never met with the same positivity that is men's. Where is the applause, the congratulation, the praise?

This brings me neatly back to Sarah Pinborough.

Check out Sarah Pinborough at United Agents
Ms Pinborough has seen some success, and I sincerely hope that she sees more of it. She is talented, hardworking and conscientious; she also happens to be charming, personable, thoughtful and funny.

It was recently suggested in the media that Sarah Pinborough’s success was good luck.

I despair!

And I suggest that the harder Ms Pinborough works, the luckier she gets… And if that’s true, she’s working about as damned hard as any writer I know, including all those lucky enough to have been born male.

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