Leading the Witness.



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. 

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.


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 goalsHow 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?

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 at the very least, slow you down.

Who, what and how questions imply that there is a solution–that I can do this–that I can attend to the task at hand.  What and how 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 about ourselves, change a habit, break a pattern–asking  why is not the best  way to do it.

Writers need to ask why their characters do what they do.

It helps justify an action or a decision.

Writers do not need to supply evidence of their lack of discipline, dedication or actual talent.

So if anyone is reading this and wondering why they aren’t writing painting finishing their masterpiece–   don’t ask why. The prosecutor is leading the witness.

I hope this post  was helpful.

Please feel free to share if it is–

and to comment if you like.

I love hearing from folks who can relate.