Short and Sweet Advice for Writers – Showing Up

If it’s true what they say, that 80 percent of success is showing up …

80percentMost often attributed to Woody Allen, the maxim “80 percent of success is showing up” has earned its place in the collective cultural consciousness.  But, how does one actually “show up,” and is it as easy to do as it sounds?

According to a Quote Investigator rundown on the origins of the Allen quip, the context of the writer/director’s observation was a 1989 conversation with language columnist William Safire about how writers and playwrights who had actually written their book or script were well on their way to publication. Unfortunately, Allen also observed that the vast majority of people never write the play or the book. They just talk about writing it.

So, it seems that “showing up” isn’t the whole story. You have to show up with the work done. Trouble is, “80 percent of success is showing up with your finished manuscript” sounds much less inspirational (not to mention way more daunting) than the original quote.  It sounds like something that might happen “someday.” Well, “might” and “someday” never do you any good. They are too uncertain and too far away in the future. What you need is to show up NOW. Today.

And, you can.

You can “show up” every day. You can sit down at your desk, put your fingers on the keyboard, and add a few more words to that “someday” manuscript. Showing up isn’t something you only do when your work is finally finished. It’s something you have to do consistently and persistently over a long period of time in order to arrive at the day when you show up with the work done. I mean, think about it. How else are you going to show up on that Big Day, manuscript in hand, if you haven’t shown up on all the other days?

I won’t lie – showing up every day is hard. BUT, it’s the only way to get where you’re going. One way to make it easier is to keep all your tools and your project close at hand. Even better, keep them right out in the open. Think of your writing project like a puzzle. If you leave a puzzle in the box and you put the box in a cupboard, it’s extremely unlikely that you’re going to put the puzzle together. If, on the other hand, you take the puzzle out of the cupboard and spread the pieces out on your dining room table, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll start popping the pieces into place. Because everything is right there in front of you, it’ll be top of mind and also easily accessible.

The same goes for your writing. Don’t squirrel it away in a desk drawer or computer file. Keep it out in the open. Leave it on the kitchen counter or your nightstand. Put it on the table next to the couch, beside the TV remote. (Better yet, put it on top of the TV remote so you have to actually move it to get to those clickers!) If you write on your computer, set your project doc to open automatically each time you boot up. Do whatever you can to keep your project in plain sight and easy to get to. I promise, if you do this you’ll suddenly find odd moments when you can sit down and scratch out a few words or ideas.

And before you know it, you’ll be an expert at showing up – for the daily grind and the Big Day when you can stand there, finished manuscript in hand and a big grin on your face.


Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition – a long-form post on writing and the writing life – and/orintroduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.