On March 30th, the winning numbers were drawn for the record-breaking, 640 million dollar jackpot of the MegaMillions Lottery.  Though all of the online forums I frequent have been abuzz for the last several days, full of people talking about how they’d like to spend the money if they won, and  every radio station I listened to had DJs joking about how that Friday would be their last day of work if they won, I managed to resist the temptation to buy myself a ticket.

My first excuse must be that I live in Alabama, and we don’t have the lottery here, but that’s a very weak excuse at best.  I live just twenty minutes away from the border with Georgia, which does participate in the MegaMillions.  I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t tempted — I was in Georgia on Friday afternoon, running several errands.  But those errands were my priority, and to be honest, I wouldn’t even know where to buy a ticket.

After my husband arrived home from work, and I teased him about whether he had stopped to buy a lottery ticket on the way (he actually works in Georgia), I started really thinking about it.  Unlike most of the people I know, I never really even thought about what I would do if I won such a prize.  Deep down, I  don’t ever expect to do so.

My father likes to say that people who have a lot of luck have to take the good with the bad.  One of his best friends from his days with the Honolulu ambulance was one of those lucky ones.  He usually returned from his vacations to Vegas with more money than he left with, while my father almost never came out ahead.  On the down side, however, his friend would often get called to the most gruesome and difficult emergencies, while my father, when not partnered with his friend, would usually get the much more routine calls.  My father often says that it’s not his luck to ever have anything really exciting happen to him, good or bad.

I do think there is something to his theory.  I think my husband has the same kind of luck as my dad.  He has an Army buddy who is much like my father’s friend — very, very lucky.  I know he often gets choice assignments, to relatively easy jobs, while my husband often gets jobs he doesn’t want.  But on the flip-side, his friend was not only involved in a bad accident (that resulted in a fatality) while they were deployed to Iraq, he’s also been involved in an off-duty accident that has left permanent damage to his back, and he mentioned being the victim of a hold-up at a job he held before joining the military.  My husband, on the other hand, happened to be on leave when the accident in Iraq happened (he would have been in the vehicle), and in many other ways, has lived a relatively uneventful life.

So you could say that I might not want the kind of luck I would need to win the massive jackpot.  I don’t wish the winners any ill, but if my dad’s theory is correct, I’d hate to see what kind of bad would come after winning a record amount of prize money.

But my feelings about luck are not the only reason I won’t  play, and it has more to do with both my writing and my feelings about gambling in general.  If I’m going to have any luck at all, I would prefer to have the luck of being published — the odds there aren’t much better than the odds for the lottery, but I think I would be happier.  Making it as a published writer isn’t solely about luck, there is some skill and a lot of hard work involved.  After all, there are many, many people who say they want to write a novel, but how many of them follow through? And of those who do finish a novel, how many of them keep persevering through the long, winding road to publication? I’ve been writing for more than twenty years now, and I know many who have given up in that time.  Some are much better writers than I can ever hope to be, but the world will never know it, because they are no longer writing.  Seeking publication makes me feel like I have some control over my odds.  Not much, but more than just the random luck of a lottery.

The same goes for gambling, in general.  My mother loves to play slots in Vegas, but I’d rather play blackjack.  Yes, there is luck involved in blackjack, but you can also affect your odds of winning by skill and practice.  I just don’t have the personality to look to fate to provide for me.  Learning the techniques of blackjack doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll win, but at least you lose your money a lot slower =)

All that being said, however, I make no guarantees that I’ll be able to continue resisting temptation if that MegaMillions jackpot goes over 1 billion dollars.  I may just have to buy a ticket in that case.  I won’t need the prize of becoming a published writer then.  Becoming a billionaire would surely silence the character’s voices I hear in my head.

Or maybe not…