The late Dr. Benjamin Spock was, of course, speaking about child rearing. However, quiet reflection can serve to boost confidence and provide direction in writing, too. Inspired by a practice I learned about in a world religions course; I’ve adopted the habit of self-querying on a regular basis, adapting sets of questions to different areas of my life, including the craft and business of writing.
How does it work?
First of all, start by sitting down and making a list of areas that could use further probing.
For instance, Author A feels her writing process could use some refining. In that case, the questions she brainstorms might include: When am I at my most productive? Is there a way I can fit more writing time into the day? Are short writing spurts effective for me, or do I get more out of longer, uninterrupted blocks of time? Do I set aside time during the day and generally keep that commitment to myself and my craft? What is working for me? What is not? How can I use this information to make myself more productive?
For another example, Author B decides he hasn’t given a great deal of though to the makeup of his audience. Some questions in his case could include: what fans have been most active in reaching out to me? How can I increase engagement with them? What are their needs? How can they be reached? Are there potential audiences who would enjoy my work? What can I do to reach them?
The method of self-query can work for any number of areas, such as my professional team, or My writing community, or my writer’s self-care toolbox.
After coming up with a list, set it aside for a day or two. Then, go through your prepared questions one at a time, sitting quietly and jotting down any answers and insights. Don’t rush this part. Just ponder the questions in mental silence and see what arises.
In the event a question is not answerable, jot down notes for further research, discussion and, or data that you may need in order to get a better handle on the topic. When you’ve gathered that information, you can come back to your queries, modifying them as necessary.
At the end of the exercise, you’ll have a better idea of what you want, action steps you can commit to taking, and/or information you need to obtain before proceeding. Either way, you’ll know more than you did when you started.
This method is, of course, not meant to substitute an author’s never-ending education. It’s essential to put in the work, reading craft and marketing books, blogs and websites, participating in writer communities on-line and in person, attending classes and conferences…but the key word is never-ending. Sometimes we authors get stuck in the belief that other people have all the answers and forget to honor the work we’ve done and the lessons we’ve learned along the way. If you’ve done all of the above, you’re likely to have an internal store of information that you can access in the quiet.
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