“Serendipity: the occurrence and development of events by chance
in a happy or beneficial way.”
Compact Oxford English Dictionary
Just love this word! It’s derived from Serendip, a former name for Sri Lanka, and was coined by the English politician and writer Horace Walpole after The Three Princes of Serendip, a fairy tale in which the heroes were always making fortunate discoveries.
I can still remember the delicious feeling I had when a teacher wrote out the word “serendipitous” on a blackboard — the roller-coaster feeling of it really appealed to me. It’s always fun to read about the role that serendipity plays in writing. Just recently I read that Richard Rodgers and Larry Hart were strolling in Central Park one day when they saw a group of high-spirited kids inventing their own games. Watching them play led to a playful set of what-ifs: What if a group of adolescents, suddenly faced with the need to make some money, decided to put on a show?
That small seed of an idea sparked by a walk in the park led to the hit musical Babes in Arms, which featured some of Rodgers and Hart’s most beloved songs, including “Where or When,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” and “My Funny Valentine.” After its debut on Broadway, the show was turned into a popular movie starring a young Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. Now that’s an idea!
One of the keys to serendipity seems to be a relaxed and open playfulness. Let’s see if we can cultivate that adventurous spirit as we write.