Unfortunately, many people, especially creatives, are trained to operate with the mindset that asking questions is bad. Lazy. Wasteful.
In some ways, it is. Because there are two parts to asking a question. The first, everyone gets right. The second is usually neglected and forgotten.
We’re supposed to ask questions – not because the answers are inaccessible to us, but instead as a stepping stone to figuring out the answers for ourselves.
As a writer, you do a lot of things you don’t always understand. You trash perfectly good first drafts because they’re seemingly too far gone to fix. You struggle to write when you’re upright in front of a screen, but lying on your back in the dark with a pillow behind your head, a year’s worth of new ideas opens up on the ceiling. You work for barely above minimum wage, even though you’re technically qualified for a higher paying job, because a higher paying job wouldn’t let you sit alone at a desk and write all day.
Why do these things happen? Why haven’t you given up yet? Should you?
That’s how it starts – self-motivation. It’s twisted and confusing, but that’s how it works. Only when you start asking yourself questions like these do you admit the answers.
Why are you doing this? What’s your motive? What will you do when this happens, or doesn’t happen? What are your goals? Your strategies? What is your plan?
Because you feel alive when you write. You feel called to do this. Maybe. Maybe you’re trying to prove someone wrong – and maybe that’s enough.
Ask these questions when you’re doubting yourself; when you feel more confident than you ever have before. Ask them both when you know where you’re going next and when you don’t. Questions prompt you to seek answers – many of which you can’t find without getting up and doing something, looking for solutions, doing everything you can to just figure it out.
I ask, “What do you want to do?” And someone says, “I want to be an author.” And when I ask why, they don’t know, or they give a vague and cliche answer like, “I want to leave my mark on the world.” I ask, “What’s your plan for meeting your writing goals?” But there are no writing goals in place. There is a gap. Writers know what they want, but they’re convinced they don’t know how to get there, because they don’t want to do the work. They don’t want to ask questions, because they don’t want to find out the answers for themselves.
Question everything, always. Question why you’re feeling so good, or so not good. You know a lot more about yourself, and your potential, your strengths and weaknesses, your capabilities and your shortcomings, than you think you do. Asking questions is a sign of deeper thinking, of unrelenting determination. You want this so bad that you’re willing to do anything and everything you can to make it happen. Make the effort. Be honest with yourself. Never say, “I don’t know,” unless you plan to follow that up with, “but I’m going to find out.”
The more you question, the more you write. The more you understand why it’s worth sitting down and doing this thing day in and day out. There are no stupid questions. Never asking questions at all is what’s careless.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.