How to Build a World

I’ll be honest.

I’m staring at the screen right now, and I’m supposed to crank out something for what is to me tomorrow morning, and I don’t know what to write. I usually come up with an idea for my blog posts a few days in advance, and then all I have to do the night before is polish what I’ve built so it’s smooth and pretty. But this time I feel tired, and I don’t really want to string together some cohesive thoughts, and the thought of taking “just a little break” from blogging this time around sounds so good.

But I’m showing up anyway, because if there’s anything I’ve learned about writing, it’s that you have to keep showing up. All the training and reading and technique and talent in the world isn’t worth a thing if you don’t show up, if you don’t write little by little day by day.

And most, if not all, writers have this problem. Writing is our passion; it both gives us life and makes sense of life. We can’t live without writing, but we also don’t want to do it. We come up with clever excuses and side hustles and procrastinations.

Writing is the most self-sabotaging of all professions.

This week I finished a short story I’ve been working on. I’ve been submitting to a few contests, and the deadlines have been invaluable in making me work. Unfortunately, my next submission deadline isn’t until the end of the month, and so of course I’ve been dragging my feet on this blasted story.

So my best friend and I came up with a plan. She lives several hours away during the summer, which really sucks in many ways, but primarily because it cuts down on our mutual creative socializing and forces us to act like well-adjusted adults for the benefit of the masses. But I digress.

When we’re together, we camp our books and computers in some hip coffee shop and spend time drinking coffee and writing (as any self-respecting millennial writer does). When we’re not together, we end up mismatched, one of us drinking coffee when the other isn’t, one of us not writing when the other is. There is imbalance and disharmony. It is very bad. It does not do.

So one day we planned an impromptu, virtual coffee run. We each camped our books and computers at home, got coffee (at least, I had coffee. If she didn’t, I don’t know what the point of all this was), and challenged each other to write 1,000 words on our individual projects (that was the point).

I knew I could finish my story in a little over 1,000 words, so I set off eagerly. And it was grueling. I spent most of the time staring at the screen while my phone lit up with her texts signposting her progress, and I told myself “It’s fine, this is all fine, it’s not a contest, stop getting mad, you can write, you’re smart, you know words, THINK, DAMMIT!”

So relaxing.

But in the end, I finished my story in just shy of 1,500 words. And she finished a chapter of her book and started another in a little over 2,000. We both showed up. And our relationship is still intact, too. I don’t tell her how competitive I can be. She still thinks I’m nice and don’t care about it. Boy, do I have her fooled.

Sometimes just showing up is all you need, no matter what you’re doing. Showing up is 99% of my yoga hobby. Showing up is how my Russian is so amazing (like ridiculously good) at sports. Showing up is how anyone does what they do to make the world a better place.

Showing up builds something beautiful brick by brick, even if you don’t think you have the energy to do one more thing. And before you know it, you’ve created a world, and all you have to do is sand it down, polish it, and make it smooth and pretty.

Like I just did.

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