Is “showing up” all it takes to be a writer? Not quite.

Woody Allen once said that “80% of success in life is showing up!”

I believe he’s right. This is why I’m showing up at my usual writing space now, sitting and waiting for inspiration to come-a-calling.

So I can blog my next masterpiece.


The truth is, since taking a break from blogging in the last two weeks of 2021 then resuming at the start of 2022, I’ve found it a whole lot harder to write even as I try showing up at my desk every time.

Especially when each of my weekly blogging deadlines looms! Which in my case is every Wednesday and Saturday, not to mention my weekly poems posted every Monday.

Maybe blogging non-stop since April 2019 has lulled me into a state of complacency? Or maybe those two weeks had broken my writing momentum and now my well’s finally dried up?

Either way, I believe merely showing up isn’t good enough. At least not for me (sorry Mr. Allen).

Instead, at least three other “ingredients” are needed for my dough, I mean inspiration, to rise.

1. Showing up in a quiet time

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Make no mistake.

I’ve been blogging for almost three years now, with over 300 posts under my belt. In all this time, I have come to realise that I do my best work when the whole world (and my kids) are in slumberland!

That means either staying up late or waking up well before the sun rises to write my magnum opus (the latter works better for me since I generally dislike going to bed late).

When the world is asleep, time stands still. My inner thoughts can finally call out to me and be heard. No competing noises other than the rhythmic sounds of my breathing and heartbeat. And the occasional call by a mynah outside the window.

For me, these beat out a constant sense of assurance that allows my words to flow like a meandering river, unfettered and uncluttered.

2. Showing up to a clean desk

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Speaking of clutter, if like me you share a study room with others, then you know what that word means!

Files. Books. Stationeries. Papers. Bills. Letters. Even Lego toys! These and more are strewn nearly everywhere, despite the efforts of my wife and I to keep our study room and desk neat and tidy. And to get the kids to do the same!

It’s hard to focus when there are forms to fill, bills to pay, homework to check, and lists of tasks to complete all lying around. It’s nearly impossible to tear my eyes away from all these constant companions calling out to me.

And don’t even get me started on the pop-up windows on my laptop! Or the ubiquitous mobile phone next to me on my desk, luring me with its seductive glow.

These devices promise endless minutes and hours of distractions, as I flick through more new dance videos from Miranda Derrick on TikTok (yes, I’m hooked! Help!!). Or pour over yet another series of new messages on one of the countless chat groups I’ve been suckered into!

Bottomline? Unless I clear my desk and devices, simply showing up will not be enough for me to write.

But even if my desk is cleared up, that still won’t be enough.

I still need a plan on what to write.

3. Showing up with a plan

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Before calling it a day, Ernest Hemingway always wrote the line or paragraph he means to start the next day’s writing with. He doesn’t even need to finish the sentence. That way when he returns the next day, he continues from where he left off, saving time to think of what to write.

Like Hemingway, many successful authors and writers including F Scott Fitzgerald typically have a plan first before embarking on their next writing effort.

While I don’t yet have a daily writing habit, I do try to “pocket” ideas that come to me throughout the day. I may scribble them down if pen and paper’s within reach, or type a note to myself on my phone to help me recall. Then I will place them into my blog’s “draft bucket” as fodder for the next time I write.

No doubt there are moments I just feel like writing on the go with no clear direction, the way many a “pantser writer” does. But I tend to be more of a “plotter”, so coming to my desk without an idea what to write typically unnerves me.

Which is kind of how I felt this morning as I showed up to write, having no idea what to say!

Thank goodness I got saved!

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Photo by hans middendorp on

So what saved me today?

Another tip from Hemingway:

Sometimes when I was starting a new story and could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.

And my one true sentence today? Yep, you guessed it! It’s the one you saw kick off this blog post: “80% of success in life is showing up!

And what d’ya know?! Voila! I found myself able to “go on from there.”

So thanks, Mr. Allen.

And thank you too, Mr. Hemingway!

2 thoughts on “Is “showing up” all it takes to be a writer? Not quite.

  1. This was a winsome read. And sometimes, the reason why we discover how we best write is thanks to, you got it, showing up.

    On most days, simply showing up doesn’t feel like it’s doing anything though, but you just need to look back and see how far you’ve come (especially 300 posts, wow!). That’s the reason why I like looking back at my old posts. There may be a paucity of improvement in prose, but I can now come up with sentences much quicker, and I can ‘visualise’ posts better, and it’s all thanks to just showing up.

    Anyway, great post and food for thought!

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