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Every parent knows the torment of a four-year-old’s interrogation. Why is the sky blue? How do birds fly? … Questions are the backflips of the mind. They are, as the early-twentieth-century explorer Frank Kingdon-Ward once said, ‘the creative acts of intelligence.’ –from Lisa Garrigues’ Writing Motherhood

The past couple years, I’ve gotten in touch with my inner four-year-old in a way I never thought I would. I don’t often talk about my work-work here (except for lessons learned from writing direct mail); however, I will now, briefly.

In the last year, I’ve conducted what feels like a bazillion but is probably closer to 50 interviews, in order to write articles. All have dealt with science–not exactly in my cozy-and-comfortable arts and humanities wheelhouse. I’ve queried doctors about the symptoms of stroke and about virtual medical delivery systems. I’ve asked engineering students about minuscule solar cells and unmanned aerial vehicles. And I’ve asked budding scientists to describe and describe again a headset that can help detect Alzheimer’s. And much, much more.

Have all my questions spurred Grade A scientific conversation? Probably not. Have I asked a dumb question or two. Probably.

But I asked, and oftentimes asked a second time. (In layman’s terms please, I ask. If I still don’t understand, I say, Pretend you had to teach this concept to a child.)

There it is.

Ask questions like a child. Listen. Ask again. That’s my writerly advice for the week.

(Looking for interviewing tips? Here you go.)

What’s your best “writerly” advice?

 

 

 

14 thoughts on “a bit of writerly advice for July 31, 2018

  1. That is excellent advice. I’ve interrogated an array of professionals for information I needed to write a particular scene or character. But there are no shortcuts even in fiction so I would hate to get it wrong. Better to look childlike in an interview than in your completed work! πŸ™Œ

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  2. Think about all of the knowledge you’ve gained through your bazillion interviews. I imagine these interviews are quite interesting and thought-provoking. Also, I love that you’ve observed the need for asking questions and re-asking questions, and I’m sure this has directly impacted your writing. I find your writing easy to follow and enjoyable, and this includes writing on topics that I’m not familiar with.

    Before I submit stories or articles for publication, I send it to a few of my “people.” These people read my writing, make sure it flows, give suggestions to increase readability, etc. So, my little bit of advice is:

    Find a person or two to be your go-to reader. It never hurts to have several people look over your work before it’s published. I love to hear suggestions even if I don’t end up using one or two in the end.

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  3. I’ve definitely become a better listener through all my interviewing, that’s for sure. And it’s fun to be able to step into the shoes of a medical doctor or engineer for the time I’m writing an article–though my talents have never lay at the math/science end of things!

    That’s wonderful advice. It takes many years to be a good editor of our own work. We’re just too close to it. It’s definitely invaluable to find a few readers you trust–and to trust your own gut, too! Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Great advice. I used to have to do something similar in my last job. I worked for 25 years in the wireless industry in Customer Service but worked closely with our Network dept. There were numerous times I had to tell an engineer to remember that I didn’t have an engineering degree and to give it to me in regular people talk.

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    1. I’ve had very interesting conversations with engineers (my brother among them) lately on the importance of being a good communicator in the engineering world. If you can’t speak about what you are doing (to “lay” people) your work may not get the recognition it deserves–no matter how brilliant! Too bad it’s not a too way street, but I’m not going to be able to really talk “engineer” any time soon! Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. Keep going do not get disheartened when the writing gets a slog … write harder and smarter. If it feels wrong set it aside clear your mind by blogging or reading then go back and look again. You see it with fresh eyes and love it all over again. Great post thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No argument here–especially about looking at something with fresh eyes. Some things just take a while to marinate, I think. Even just a walk or shower, and I can come back to a revision refreshed. Thanks for checking out my post!

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