Can an annoying ‘technique’ make you a better writer?

So, you maybe thinking “Why should I do something annoying to make me better, happier and more productive?” And y’know what? That’s fair. We’re not looking for life-hacks that are a pain in the backside.

Here’s my view on that: isn’t a lot of productivity ‘advice’ already annoying? Just think of all those gurus who tell their followers to get up at 4am, have a cold shower and sit naked in the garden for an hour while doing transcendental mediation. Imagine having to do that just to get ready in the morning? I once saw a video of guru and actual giant Tony Robbins preparing for the day by jumping on a mini-trampoline. I’m lucky to find a matching pair of socks in my drawer.

My super-rad-ace idea isn’t anything like that. But it is kind of annoying. Here it is, it’s this question:

“Why do you write?”

Four words. They don’t look like much. But I remember being asked this in a university seminar and really struggling. I mumbled something about setting the voices in my head free, which was was intended to be amusing rather than disturbing.

I think it’s a really good question which can really benefit you creatively. I recently finished a book called “Start With Why” which discusses how asking ‘why’ helped the best businesses.  Also, it’s an established creative technique suggested by creative thinking expert Edward De Bono.*
I find it helpful but it’s annoying because even though it’s really good question I struggled to answer straight away. When I was in that seminar the question felt like a little cousin at the seaside gibbering “Why? Why? Why?” as they tug at your sleeve and ruin your ice cream.
I ended up rushing an answer. On reflection I can see what I was trying to say. It was a regurgitation of things I half-remembered Alice Walker and Quentin Tarantino** saying about living among their characters, listening to what they have to say and noting it down. As well as realising time and time again that this is not HOW I write, it is also not WHY I write either.
One reason why I think asking yourself “Why do you write?” makes you a better writer is because it gets you to think about both your process for writing and philosophy of writing. And increased self-awareness can only be a good thing.
I needed a little time to think about it and I think I have a much better idea now. For me writing helps me to understand ideas and understand people. Also, in an ironic way I write to become a better writer. I think about how I write by writing more and trying out ideas to see if they work. It was one reason I chose to blog more.
But it’s annoying because it’s taken me some time to realise this. But then it has also taken me sometime to become a better writer.
Now, I can’t guarantee it may work for you. I intend to regularly ask myself this question and it may turn out that this isn’t as productive as I hope. But I really believe it’s worth a try.
Maybe you could give ‘why’ a try. What’s the worst that could happen? At least it doesn’t require jumping on a trampoline every morning.
* I’m 99% certain this is in his book on Lateral Thinking. I’m sure you can find it somewhere.

** How many times do you see these two writers talked about in the same sentence?


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