“You just have it to do.”
“I don’t want to do it.”
“You just have it to do.”
“You just have it to do. Now move.”
In 70+ years, I’ve had a lot of people give/try to give me advice. Some of it was worth listening to and considering. Other pearls of wisdom simply weren’t gems at all.
Personally, I don’t often give advice. If I’m asked, I’ll state my honest opinion, but that’s all. My philosophy is that adults (and those who pretend to be) are responsible for making their own decisions. If they make the wrong one, they have to take the consequences, backtrack, re-think, and try to do better next time. I’ve had to do it, and so--I expect--have you.
But the one piece of advice which has carried me through the years is the simple statement:
You just have it to do.
It came from a former Sunday School teacher with whom I became good friends as a teen and later as an adult. She left home early because she was part of a “first” family, and there were other half-siblings to feed during the Depression. So she boarded out, worked at anything she could find to do, and tried to stay in school.
Once the principal said to her, “If you don’t come to school more, you’re not going to graduate.”
She replied, “Then I guess I won’t graduate. I’ve got to eat.”
She managed to do both--survived an early unsuccessful marriage, raised a son on her own, and managed to always have at least one job and sometimes two. When she spoke of making it through the bad times, she’d say, “I just had it to do.” So she did.
Later, when I navigated stormy waters in my own life, she refused me any sympathy, nor did she offer me a way to smoother seas. “You just have it to do,” she’d say, gazing at me steadily. “You just have it to do.” So I did.
When I think of her words, I also think of Elisabeth Elliot, a missionary to Ecuador, who became a young widow with a ten-month-old child when her husband was killed by the Auca Indians in 1956. She stayed on, even living with the same tribe which had massacred her husband and four others. Then she returned to the United States and became a prolific writer and sought-after speaker. From her books and tapes, I gleaned some similar advice:
Do the next thing.
Cobbling the two pieces of advice together has seen me through much of a lifetime. If I have it to do, I can only begin by doing the next thing.
Life is too short to waste time kicking and screaming over its injustices and hardships. At some point, one has to do something. The next thing is always a good starting place.
We plan, we try, we fail, we try again, but we can’t escape the inevitable certainty that we just have it to do. So we do the next thing…and the next…and the next…
Writing is a lot like that, I think. Oh, I don’t have to do it, but once I begin, I’m carried through on the rising tide of needing to finish, one scene--one chapter--at a time. The task is there to be done. And so is the next task.