Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Showing Up

The more prosaic way to say it is Woody Allen's, "90 percent of success is just showing up" (which I've also heard quoted as "80 percent of success is just showing up"). A more poetic way is this, from artist Philip Guston, quoted by Gail Godwin, reproduced in the wonderful collection of meditations for writers, Walking on Alligators, edited by Susan Shaughnessy:

"I go to my studio every day, because one day I may go and the angel will be there. What if I don't go and the angel came?"

I've been stuck on my book-in-progress, Mason Dixon: Fourth Grade Disasters. Is it as funny and sweet as the first book in the series, Mason Dixon: Pet Disasters? Is it funny and sweet AT ALL? Is there, well, is there a PLOT to the story? A plot that would make anybody keep on turning the pages to find out what happens next? For two days I could hardly force myself to write it, and if the writer can't force herself to write it, that doesn't bode well for the reader, who will hardly be inclined to force himself to read it.

Then today I made myself show up. Just made myself do it. I sat down and read through the first few chapters and found out exactly what I needed to do to raise the level of interest and dramatic tension in the book. Then I started writing a new scene for chapter 8 and all of a sudden, a whole new plot possibility presented itself. Two, actually.

I don't know if I could honestly say that an angel came. But my hand was racing across the page in delighted anticipation of what was going to happen next. And that does bode well for my eventual reader.

Right now, I believe that 100 percent of success is just showing up.

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