Precommittment is an idea I’ve been familiar with for some time. “Burn the ships” is the most common expression of this idea, Hernán Cortés having burned his ships to “precommit” his men to conquering the Aztec empire (but perhaps a more accurate phrase would be “scuttle the ships“). You can also throw out all the junk food to precommit yourself to eating healthy. This idea is expressed well in the exceptional book Willpower by Baumeister & Tierney.
Slate has a good article on The Odysseus Option here:
That’s why truly binding precommitment devices are so interesting. The first known practitioner of such voluntary bondage was wily Odysseus, en route home from the Trojan War. As his ship approached the Sirens, he was determined to hear their song without, well, going overboard. Necessity being the mother of invention, he invented history’s first precommitment device. “You must bind me tight with chafing ropes,” our hero instructs inRobert Fagles’ translation, “so I cannot move a muscle, bound to the spot, erect at the mast-block, lashed by ropes to the mast. And if I plead, commanding you to set me free, then lash me faster. …”
What a moment! The Odyssey is really all about self-control, and Odysseus’ foresight and skill at managing desire explains why he—and he alone—survives the harrowing journey back to Ithaca. His actions in this instance set the standard for all who would later enlist others to compel themselves to follow their own commands.
My cousin, Hadley Barrows, is putting this idea into practice. She’s precommitted to writing a novel by posting about it on her blog. She’s very good about goal-type things. You can read about it in her first post here:
and her follow up post here:
I admire her approach and wish her the best of success. I’ve started a new novel as well (about 12,000 words in) but I’m not quite ready to precommit to a launch date. Perhaps I’ll eventually follow my cousin’s lead and precommit in this space. Until then I’m not committing (or precommitting) to anything.
(P.S. Thanks for the review Hadley and I can’t wait to see you at the cabin in a few weeks!)
For some reason this tweet (about the Amazing Race and Switzerland) is still getting favorited over a month later.
My father in law Dave Bartlett, the leader of Orchard Hill church, reposted one of my FH posts. Thanks Dave!
This four-star review on Amazon is one of my favorites:
“I absolutely loved this book. It was an easy read and such a heartwarming story. Although there was a lot of tragedy, love and faith prevailed.” – LittleWilma
Laurance O’Brian, author of The Istanbul Puzzle, was nice enough to feature me with a guest post on his blog the other day. Thanks Laurence!
One of the unexpected benefits of my first few months as an author has been this rich community of fellow authors. People like Laurence who open up their blog to new strivers like me and freely give advice on social media. I’ve gotten excellent advice from Suzanna Nelson (http://www.suzannaenelson.com/) and randomly connected with a fellow author from my hometown, Kathy Fish (http://kathy-fish.com/) who introduced me to flash fiction. Then there’s Twitter which is lousy with authors both great and small.
Thanks Laurence and all you fellow authors. I’m proud to be one of you.
I just posted this review of Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue at Goodreads:
Michael Chabon is one of my favorite authors. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is my favorite of his novels and The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is second. In Telegraph Avenue Chabon displays his talent in nearly every sentence. As a new writer towards the beginning of his learning curve, it amazes me to observe a master word-picker at work. I wonder how long he spends on each one of his sentences. His vocabulary and dexterity are just off the charts. He deserves to be considered one of the most talented novelists at work today.
That said, this novel wasn’t in my top seven or so of his works. While impressed with his words and sentences, the story itself didn’t fully hold my interest. I found myself skipping paragraphs. And the single-sentence chapter, while novel, was skipped as well. I liked the characters, their relationships, and the setting being centered on a Berkley record store. I also liked the blimp. But, if you haven’t read Chabon (and please do) start with some of his other novels first and read this one down the road.