Day 19: Good Questions

Today’s Word Count Goal: 40,360

Today’s Word Count So-Far: 33,403

Total Word Count Goal: 50,000



I guest-taught a writing class at CCA Monday night. I’d been asked to help ten women artists narrow research topics, a formidable task.

On Monday afternoon, my friend and colleague, clinical sexologist, Dr. Sueann Mark, took me to a pond in Golden Gate Park, where she loves to watch the ducks. She’s also noticed a flock of pigeons there, so she thought I might like to check it out.

We sat on a bench, watching ducks, lamenting the laws against bird feeding, and musing the mysteries of bird behavior. The pigeon flock never showed, but I found inspiration in our conversation.

Dr. Mark asks good questions. She delved beyond, “How is NaNoWriMo going?” to things like, “What’s really fascinating you about pigeons right now?”

She responded to my mutterings about pigeons and death and darkness with engaged conversation: “What’s wild about that is the way they just sit in the street when cars come at them. Are you writing about that?”

She got me thinking, and when we parted ways, I wrote with more enthusiasm and focus.

So I scrapped my lesson plan for the artists and their research papers, paired them up, and compelled them to ask each other some Dr. Mark-style questions like these:

Project Background Questions

  • What is the inspiration?
  • What fascinates you about this project?
  • What drew you to the topic initially?

Emotional Questions About A Project

  • Why is this project important to you?
  • What opinions have you formed on this topic?
  • Do you have any personal stories that connect you to the project?

Conversational Ways To Deepen & Focus A Project

  • What I’m really interested in is . . .
  • What do you mean by . . . ?
  • My big question about this is . . .

I’ll admit I was a little scared that they’d have nothing to say. But they talked fast, and when I told them their talk-time had expired, they asked for more time!

Once they’d talked enough, I let them loose with paper and pen to write about their projects.

Try asking these questions of someone you know who’s writing. Ask a friend to interview you about your project, keeping these questions in mind.

This is how we deepen our writing ideas. So often, we imagine the business of writing a solitary venture, but I believe it cannot be that, not all the time.

Sometimes I need to go sit by a pond with a friend and talk it out. Don’t you?

Watch my next few blog posts for shots of other childrens books about pigeons. I’m doing my market research!

Watch the Sexy Grammarian participate in National Novel Writing Month for the third year in a row. I’ll post word counts and worries here daily, Tweet about it, raise funds for the Office of Letters And Light, and host Meet Me/Tweet Me open loft writing sessions all month long.

    • Dad
    • November 19th, 2010

    That was an inspired segue from pigeon-pondering to writing workshop! I’m using your series of questions for my own ends. Tell Sueann hi for me.

  1. Dad, I’m glad you liked the post and can make use of the questions! I will definitely pass your hello on to Dr. Mark.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: