Woody Allen is known for having said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” He was talking about being successful at writing and how so many people say they want to write, but they don’t sit down and do it thus they don’t accomplish anything. He believes that if you actually show up every day to put words on paper, you’re 80% of the way towards being successful.
I learned a similar lesson back in high school in the late ‘50s, long before I’d ever heard of Woody Allen. Back in those days I had dreams of being a famous artist and so did another boy in my class. I approached art from a technical angle, studying how-to books religiously trying to hone a craft while he had so much natural talent you couldn’t tell his work from photographs. But he was a perfectionist who could never finish anything on time; there was always something more he wanted or needed to do. Teachers, of course, all knew he was the better artist and when it came time for the two of us to submit designs for event program covers, the year book cover, etc., they did their best to get him to turn his work in on time. He never did and guess whose work they had to use instead.
After a year or two of art school he started a commercial advertising art business that wasn’t very successful because in that field deadlines count and he was allergic to them. In the early ‘70s my husband ordered some magnetic signs from him and if Don hadn’t died a couple of years ago he’d still be waiting for Mr. Perfectionist to finish those signs for his trucks. One time we went to the grand opening of a business and the place had no front door. They had commissioned Mr. Perfectionist to carve it and he missed the deadline. Not too long after that we ran into him at an art-in-the-park show. He’d given up advertising art and was doing art shows, the perfect outlet for his talent. He could be as fussy-mussy as he wanted to be. No deadlines. No customers breathing fire down his neck, just another starving-but-happy artist in a sea of his peers. Me? My less talented art took me in a different direction. After three years of college I went to floral design school, then spent the next twenty years making bridal bouquets. I did the flowers for literally thousands of weddings and I never, ever missed a deadline. To this day, I envy Mr. Perfectionist. He had the raw talent I lusted after, but I suspect he might have envied me as well for “showing up” when he couldn’t.
Pulitzer Prize winner for literature, Saul Bellow, once said, “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” We shall see. I got out of bed at 2:00 AM to write the above and whatever follows. Yesterday I had finished writing a blog entry I was planning to use for New Year’s Eve but something about it bothered me. I did quite a bit of research on New Year’s traditions and what I wrote might have made a passable theme for a high school assignment, but my authentic voice could barely be heard above the historical accounting of how the whole world came into the tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions. It dates back 4,000 years to the ancient Babylonians, in case you’re interested, with Julius Caesar (46 BC) and John Wesley (the founder of Methodism, 1700s) both leaving their sizable imprint on the custom. As I tossed and turned in bed in the wee hours that Woody Allen quote popped in my head and it wouldn’t leave. It drove me to rewrite my New Year’s Eve essay. And out of that whole research-bloated blog the only part I’m keeping is what was supposed to be the opening paragraph. (Below)
Strive to be healthy, happy and productive. That’s what I want for the coming year so that’s what I’m setting as my mantra/resolution for 2016. If someone wants to cross-stitch that on a tea towel, my birthday is in April. This big umbrella alternative to the traditional list of New Year’s Resolutions allows me to redefine my goals throughout the year. Being healthy over the next few months, for example, means getting my diet back under control but in the spring striving to stay healthy might mean getting the black mole on my back checked out. Shape-shifting resolutions---bring them on. You can’t break or fail at a shape-shifting resolution unless you totally give up on improving yourself. I may be old but I’m not that old.
By the way, Woody is right, just showing up is truly half the battle to accomplishing anything. "Anything" for me could be: grief recovery, working on New Year’s Resolutions, redefining what it will take to make me happy, learning to paint again, writing an authentically me blog or just plain living happily in the moment. “Just show up” is a one-size-fits-all manta/resolution that's up for grabs if anyone still needs one for the coming year. There’s a whole world out there waiting for us to apply ourselves. ©