Commitment Not Compatible With Hovering

27 Apr


I recently had the life-changing opportunity of going to a castle in Scotland for a month to abscond from the outside world to focus solely on my writing. Upon arriving to this aforementioned castle, I spent careful and conscientious time focused on what projects I was committed to working on while I was there. If I wasn’t committed to the project, I wasn’t going to work on it, I said to myself. My time was too valuable and the opportunity was too immense. And upon searching through the copious projects I brought with me, ranging from screenplays to musicals to collections of short fiction, the one that really stuck out as something I was deeply devoted to working on was a book – my first novel, in fact.

NOTE: If you’re not really committed to something, don’t really commit to it.  (Now you can keep reading.)

In the past, amongst the hustle and bustle of everyday New York City life, I’ve pretended not to care about some of my writing. It was a defense mechanism to cover up my true feelings for my work so I could justify ignoring it, devaluing it, passing it off as something not to lose sleep over. The opposite was true of my first few weeks at this castle in Europe; with my commitment known, I would go to sleep staring at the manuscript on my desk, anxiously worrying about the “genius” that would have to be infused into it the following day, terrified that I might not really have the chops to do it.


The Intimidating Presence

Sometimes, after reaching my daily limit of writing, I would return to my room after dinner and flip through the pages, reading random sentences I reworked from earlier, skimming over paragraphs, making useless notes in the margins that I knew would do me no good upon revisiting the pages in the morning. I was hovering. I felt like an overprotective parent who wouldn’t let his child out of his sight, a scrutinizing prison guard not letting the inmate vanish from his gaze. Night and day, in between moments of freneticism and repose, I hovered.

A week into my fellowship there, I realized, while laying in bed one night looking at the moon with a glass of wine in hand, this obsessiveness wasn’t working for me, that not letting this manuscript out of my sight and feeling the need to be connected to it all day was interrupting my flow. Upon sorting through this in my mind, as I looked out my window in the Scottish night, a voice said to me:

Where there is commitment, there is no need to hover.

I sat up in bed, and an extraordinary light bulb that went off in my mind. Of course there’s no need to hover. I am committed to this book. I made my commitment known a while ago for this book. And it’s true, where there is commitment, there is absolutely no need to hover. I got up (after putting my wine down, of course), grabbed a folder and shoved the manuscript in it, closed it, bound it with a rubber band and put it on my bookshelf. The manuscript was out of sight, no longer an intimidating presence; I would not be tempted to hover over it any longer. My commitment to this will bring about a devotion and completion of this, I thought to myself. Immediately, I felt at peace.

Most of my life lessons come in the form of writing lessons first, so thinking through this concise and lucid bit of wisdom that came to me that night, I realized how applicable it can be to interpersonal relationships. When we make a commitment known to a friend, a significant other, even a colleague – a commitment to them and the relationship, there is no need to hold onto it for dear life, to grip it by the neck in total rigidity.

Through true commitment, there is ease; through true commitment, there is an effortlessness and security to what (and who) we are committed to. Take stock of your commitments, choose them wisely, and know that they will never belong in the same room as hovering, that they are about as separate as oil and vinegar.


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