Start Before You’re Ready

We feel a book inside us. It’s there. We see the characters, we feel the structure, we sense the contours. We just need another week/month/semester to get our heads in the right place to begin …

William Hutchison Murray, author of “The Scottish Himalayan Expedition”

Start before you’re ready.

Forget that week.

Strike that month.

Start now.

Don’t wait till your ducks are in a row. Dive in now.

Why does this seemingly irrational principle work?

Because the sphere of invention operates by different (and higher) laws than that of normal, conventional enterprises.

The Muse works by her timetable, not ours.

When the train leaves the station, you and I had better be on it.

Or consider this corollary:

Go to the station. The train will appear.

Many of the principles that work for us as artists are counter-intuitive. They make no sense in the world of logic and rationality, but they are spot-on in the quantum sphere of creativity. Here is William Hutchison Murray from The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw 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.

I quoted this passage in The War of Art seventeen years ago. Its brilliance (and its truth) remains undiminished.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision [to begin], raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.

Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now!”

That book/screenplay/business venture that we feel inside us? We may think we’re not ready. We’re wrong.

The goddess is at work within us.

Trust her.

Start before you’re ready.




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  1. Paulinho Uda on April 10, 2019 at 3:44 am

    That’s all I needed to read today to start writing. Thanks Steven!

  2. Joe Jansen on April 10, 2019 at 6:23 am

    Murray. Love that guy. We could distill it down to two words: “providence moves.”

    A favorite picture of him (on the right, and mountaineer Michael Ward on the left) during a 1951 recon expedition that found a route over the Khumbu icefall (I think northwest of Everest or “Chomolungma” — “Goddess Mother of Mountains”). Just look at those faces: commitment and initiative.

  3. Mary Doyle on April 10, 2019 at 7:18 am

    Powerful post that hits right between the eyes with its pared-down truth – as always, thanks!

  4. Julie on April 10, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks Steven. I completely agree. 🙂

  5. Chris Glatis on April 12, 2019 at 10:00 am

    Man, I needed to hear this today! Thank you, Steven.

  6. lisa on April 24, 2019 at 11:05 am

    this is something inspirational, this is really good content and very great topic.

  7. Lila on May 2, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    Thank you, Steven! ❤️

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