What Is Given
You may be familiar with the expression, “Ask and it is given.” I did not understand until recently how directly this applied to writing, that most of what writing has become for me is learning to ask the best and most useful questions and listen carefully to the answer. Always writing begins with the simple question, “What should we write about today?” or, “What should happen in this scene or chapter?” An answer begins to arrive, but exactly as inchoate as the question. In today’s case I heard, “Asking.” And so the questions continue as we narrow the focus of our desire. If you are writing a scene in which characters argue, you must learn what they will argue about, and where these separate points of view originated, and how long they have been held, and how dearly they are held. Within every answer more questions arise, and so a book or story or essay or poem is written, as we ask and are given answers, ask and are given answers.
Yet the job of the writer is twofold. The power and depth of the story we tell depends upon the depth of the questions we ask, and our willingness to allow room for the answer. We cannot fill ourselves with what we already believe the answer to be. Nor can we fill ourselves with worry, or judgment of what we have not written, or comparison to others. All of these thoughts will take the place of the answer we desire. If we ask, we must remain open to receive the answer.
The creative questions we ask, however, are not demands. When I have asked, ”What is the point of all this?” or, “Why aren’t things happening faster?” I do not expect answers as they arrive in creation. I have become a boss of the universe, and am looking only for an explanation and an apology. The universe, I have noticed, does not apologize. Moreover, I am the boss of nothing, nor do I wish to be. I wish only to share the answers to the questions I have asked.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.