There’s a quote I remember hearing years ago, one of those quotes that really resonated with me and has stuck with me ever since. It was by Woody Allen, I think, and he said something like “90% of life is about just showing up”.
I may be misquoting slightly, but that’s the gist of it. Woody Allen said he wasn’t any more talented than a lot of other people, but what made him successful was that he kept showing up when others didn’t. He kept writing even when he was getting rejected, he kept sending his scripts even to people who’d never consider making his movie or play, and he kept writing and submitting and meeting people and generally showing up whenever he could, wherever he could, as often as he could.
Showing up, though (or ‘turning up’ as we call it in Britain) is incredibly hard to do. It requires a consistency and determination and thickness of skin that few of us possess. In my life there have certainly been times, ranging from hours to weeks to years, when I just stopped showing up. I stopped doing the things I knew I needed to do, because those things were just too hard. I wanted a break, I wanted to enjoy myself, I was scared, and I just couldn’t face showing up. I did things that in no way took me closer to my goals and dreams, and often took me in precisely the opposite direction.
I bet I’m not the only one. I bet you’ve done the same, whether with writing or another goal. Aren’t we good at justifying these detours and evasions to ourselves? We often tell ourselves we’re being responsible, or practical, or putting others first. These are good qualities, after all, qualities valued by the watching world. So much better than admitting that we just couldn’t face taking the difficult risky steps it would have taken to get to what we really wanted.
Why this post now?
Well, I’m having one of those days when I feel as if I can’t show up any more, and I want to head that feeling off at the pass.There’s no particular cause. There hardly ever is. Life is still generally good for me, and nothing terrible has happened. Maybe I’m just tired. Maybe it’s the usual money worries that have dogged me ever since I gave up real jobs and tried to make a living from something as ephemeral as words. Or maybe it’s chance, or fate, or something totally out of my control. I don’t believe in astrology, but I can see why people do. It feels as if a planet shifted somewhere, and all the things that were turning to gold a few weeks ago are now turning to something browner and stickier. It feels as if there’s no point.
And yet, I must show up. I must show up when all I want to do is hide. I must write, and think, and read, and I must send my work out into the world and take the rejections and the disappointments in the knowledge that if I put myself in a position to be considered for enough opportunities, some of them will come good. I will find a way to make a proper living from doing things I think are important. It will all come together if I just keep showing up. Thanks, Woody! And thanks to you for listening.