Leading the Witness. A cautionary tale for my fellow writers and artists.
When I ask myself why I never finish anything- my mind will assume that this question is valid and that the statement is true and I will supply all kinds of evidence and end up concluding that I shouldn’t even bother writing or painting or doing anything artistic.
I call this particular kind of self-questioning leading the witness.
It’s like there is this big trial going on inside me and the prosecuting attorney wants me to confess that I am guilty of never finishing anything–and of course I have this very compliant witness inside me that is swayed easily and will provide lots of evidence that I am guilty as charged.
But the thing is it’s not true. I’m not guilty. I do finish things all kinds of things.
I have learned that when I feel stuck or confused, I try to ask questions like: What can I do today to get back on track- to keep me excited- to keep me focused on my writing goals? How can I make better choices to keep going when I get bored or confused by my script— or how can I increase my focus when I am distracted and in danger of losing my momentum? These questions are more effective because they have me asking a wiser part of myself how to do what I am trying to do.
A writer asking themselves why they are not writing might miss the implied judgement in the question, and judgement of self is not useful for moving forward in life or in art.
Judgement– to stay with the legal metaphor is a way to punish yourself and lock yourself up in a prison of self doubt.
Or if that’s too dramatic-it’s a good way to slow you down or even cause you to give up.
Who, what and how questions imply that there is a solution. These questions move us into a part of our brain where we can strategize and plan and problem-solve and analyze. How can I get the support I need? How can I organize my time to make room for writing?
If we want to transform something, change something, finish something, asking why is not the best way to do it.
Of course writers need to ask why their characters do what they do. Asking why can helps justify an action or a decision. But, writers do not need to supply evidence of their lack of discipline, dedication or actual talent around writing itself. That is a waste of your time.
So if you are wondering why you aren’t writing, don’t ask why.
If you do–well–I object–the prosecutor is leading the witness.