“The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt, but in spite of doubt.” Rollo May
When I read these words, they cast a warm glow over my morning. What a relief! As creative souls pursuing projects we care about, commitment is so important. And yet, despite our devotion, so often the seeds of doubt seem to bloom in our gardens. Even writers who enjoy enormous success wonder if they are “one-trick ponies” – if they have only one big book in them or if the success they enjoyed was really deserved.
Its good to know that doubt isn’t an enemy but a valued friend, isn’t it? What a liberating idea: When doubt bubbles up, we don’t need to fear it or tamp it down, but simply accept it as a healthy response. Beyond this, it can actually bolster our commitment, because when we keep going and stay with a project in spite of our doubts about it, we strengthen our commitment muscle.
In my handy Century Dictionary, “commitment” is defined as “the act of committing, pledging, or engaging one’s self.” Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? When we commit to a project, we pledge ourselves to time and abilities to pursuing it and engage our efforts to ensure its completion.
Now, let’s think for a moment, about the kind of doubts that may go hand in hand with our pledge to and engagement in a writing project that we care about:
We may doubt that we have the ability we need, but we can move forward anyway, calmly embracing an old Estonian proverb which says, “The work itself will teach you.”
We may doubt that we have the energy we need, but on any given day, we can fight through the physical or psychological fatigue we feel and make progress.
We may doubt that we have the staying power to push to completion, but we can take small steps each day that move us closer toward our goal.
We may doubt that the rest of the world will want to read what we have to say, but we can remember that if we find pleasure on the page, our readers are likely to experience it as well and to enjoy and value what we’ve written.
OK, we have our marching orders! In order to move to completion, we need to commit: to pledge ourselves to our projects and to be fully enaged in our work. And when doubts crop up, as they surely will, we can simply give them a friendly nod and write on!