Today has been one of those days where I sit down to write and then immediately have to pee/ get a drink of water/ check my email/ comment on Instagram/ go pee again (hydration, man!)/ eat a snack/ check the mail…I think you get the drift.
I was reminded recently of a quote by amazing painter Chuck Close:
“Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
I love this, you guys. And I’m on a quote kick today apparently, so I’ll share this one from Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art as well:
“Someone once asked Somerset Maughham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. ‘I write only when inspiration strikes,’ he replied,’fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.’”
All of my quoting here is really just to say: We have to show up, you guys.
Like SHOW UP, show up.
There’s no way around it. Whether we are writing a book, raising our kids, building a business, running a marathon, completing an education, maintaining a marriage…whatever…we have GOT to show all the way up. Not look like we’re there while our minds are elsewhere. Not making all kinds of noises about how hard we’re working or the sacrifices we’re making all while we’re really sort of phoning it in. Not intending to show up, but never quite actually getting there.
And we have to do that showing all the way up thing whether we feel like it or not. Ouch.
Let me tell you a little story from my twenties that was a gigantic “aha” moment for me. I was working as a river guide in West Virginia. It was autumn and the always breathtaking river was even more stunning with the trees in their fall colors. It was a beautiful day and I had a really fun group of people in my raft. It was as close to a perfect day as a river guide could ask for. And I did NOT feel like being there. Like, at all. I was tired, it had been a long season and I really just wanted to lay in my tent and read, my friends were going kayaking and I wanted to go, and, you know, snacks.
As I looked around the river gorge, late day light making the shadows long and golden and knowing that this was work that I absolutely loved, I was struck by the realization that there is no such thing as work that doesn’t at least occasionally feel like a slog.
We show up anyway.
Look, if the entirety of your life feels like one long grind with few-to-no breaks in the monotonous drudgery, there are probably some changes that you should make. But I think most of the time, for most of us, we have real love for the task at hand, we just don’t always like actually doing it at any given moment. That’s okay. That’s not a sign of failure. It’s not a sign to quit. It’s not really a problem at all, actually. Seriously- it’s no big deal.
We show up anyway and keep doing the work we are called to do.
Keep going for those runs. Keep teaching those classes. Keep raising those kids and making time for your marriage. Keep writing (no matter how many times you get up for snacks…oh sorry, that part was just for me…) or painting or practicing the ukulele or finding the perfect recipe for your craft beer.
We won’t have perfect results all of the time (okay, most of the time) and the final outcomes can be mixed (especially when the work includes other people who may or may not be doing theirs). But the cumulative total of a life spent showing up all the way, showing up whether you feel like it at that precise moment or not, will be staggering in its effect. Our “body of work” might range from a stack of books to a stack of meaningful relationships, children who felt seen and a spouse who felt heard, goals chipped away at and maybe even wild dreams actually achieved.
It’s pretty amazing to feel really inspired and there is nothing wrong with enjoying the hell out of those moments. But inspiration can be fickle and sometimes she opts to show up only after your’ve proven that you’ll start without her. So don’t wait. And don’t mess around with half measures and “face time” because frankly, you just don’t have time for that bullshit.
Show up. All the way. Whether we feel like it or not.
We can do it, you guys.
(But just to clarify, it’s okay to bring snacks…and occasionally go pee…because hydration...)
The road to Tucson from Nevada...I never get tired of those wide western skies and the sense of space, the open road, the possibility...
This is a terrible snapshot, but I thought it would be sort of fun to show you a peek at the chaos involved in each move-in day...I never remember to take actual photos of it...next time!