In our family, we have a rule. (We probably need more, but at least we have one. And we tend to stick to it, so I’m thinking maybe we shouldn’t extend ourselves.) We only buy lottery tickets on holidays. I’m talking about scratchers here, usually $1. For each holiday, we each get one. Sometimes the holidays pile up (yay, February!) and we find ourselves buying for several holidays in a bunch. Like today, we bought six. And I won $3. You could call that a 50% loss, but I call it a 50% return. Why? Because I’m a writer, and playing the lottery is better than being a writer. Well, in some ways…
- The odds of winning a cash prize (on the tickets I bought today) is 1-in-7.99. Do you know what writers would do to get 1-in-8 odds for a magazine submission?
- It’s only a buck. Writing used to cost more. You needed typewriter ribbons, carbon paper (ask your parents), paper (lots of it), envelopes (two per sub) and postage. Now you don’t need anything but an internet connection. But it’s still time-consuming, and even if you’re only charging yourself minimum wage, that’s a lot of dough sunk into each story.
- Your chances of winning big are much better. Yes, you have the same odds of winning the Powerball as of having the shark that’s attacking you being hit by lightning. But you can go an entire lifetime without hitting the big bucks as a writer, and you probably will. What’s a little standing in line at 7-11 compared to that?
- You can set your own target. Go ahead. Buy the $1 “Chinese New Year”scratcher. Or the $5 “Moon Shot.” Or both. Or neither. Nobody cares if you switch tickets, or buy different-priced tickets on different days. But if you’re going to be a writer, you want to be known for one thing, so readers can find you.
- No waiting. Buy your ticket, scratch your ticket, toss your ticket. The whole process takes less than a minute. Nobody has ever been rejected that fast. It can take months. (I’ve had it take years.) The fastest rejection I’ve ever gotten took over an hour. Do you know how many scratchers you could buy and uncover in an hour? (And you’d certainly make money, which is more than that rejection paid.)
So if you’re going to gamble, take it easy on yourself. The lottery is only money. Writing is money, time, sweat, depression, feelings of inadequacy, and frustration. And with the lotto, you get money. Money you can spend on things you don’t need. Then it’s gone, but at least you have the satisfaction of knowing you spent it. With writing, all you get is a warm feeling in your heart when you hold that magazine in your hand and think about all the thousands of people who will read it, people who will all wish they were you, and even after you put the magazine on the shelf it will lie there for years, and you’ll have to move it whenever you need to dust, and every time you do that you’ll only get that same warm feeling all over again.
Money you can spend right now versus a sense of accomplishment you’ll have to carry around for the rest of your life? Hmm, tough choice.