The Four Commitments

Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to pull back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               –W. H. Murray
                                                                                                                                                                                         The Scottish Himalayan Expedition, 1951

Commitment is vital to the writing process. First of all is the commitment to sit down at our desks every day in front of the blank page and write what wants to come, regardless of what it is. As we do this, a space opens for an outpouring of writing, whether it’s about an incident or conversation the day before, a dream, image, or thread of idea taking us to new directions.

The second commitment is to acknowledge the writing by reading it over, highlighting compelling passages, typing it into our computer (if we’ve written in longhand), and printing it out. We may also assign the writing a title and give it a place in a new file folder.

The third commitment is to shape the writing. Sometimes it’s clear what form the writing wants to take, such as a poem, or personal essay. Other times we need to let it sit and gather more threads that will weave into a form.

The fourth commitment is to complete the writing, however long this takes, and send it off to find a home. This may be a short or lengthy process, depending on the writing, its form, and myriad other factors such as finding appropriate markets.

Commitment can’t be forced. We must come to it when we’re ready, which may be after years of confusion about our creative path.

Commitment, too, is the attitude in which we approach writing. If we’re sincere in our desire to open to our truest writing, the writing can’t help but appear on the page. We come to this writing willingly, with an open heart, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and intimate with our deepest feelings. Some days we’ll receive much cohesive writing that can be easily shaped into a finished piece. Other days we’ll receive dribs and drabs, and on these days we must trust the work is proceeding on deeper levels.

There will be times our commitment is tested with any number of obstacles, ranging from distraction, doubt, fear, worry about our affairs or those of other people, and the inevitable vicissitudes of life. Yet with a strong commitment, we can come back to our writing and begin where we left off. We come to know, as novelist and short story writer Ray Bradbury said, “We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”