You Can’t Get to “Once Upon a Time” Without “What If?”

asking questions

Photo credit: yewenyi on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC

Lately, I’ve been reading Thomas Merton’s Confessions of a Guilty Bystander (thank you, Ed!), which was first published in 1968 but remains as relevant as ever on the 50th anniversary of its publication. Here’s one of the first passages I underlined, from Merton’s introduction:

I do not have clear answers to current questions. I do have questions, and, as a matter of fact, I think a man is known better by his questions than by his answers. To make known one’s questions is, no doubt, to come out in the open oneself.

This quote came to mind as I recently read Danielle Lazarin’s essay in the latest Glimmer Train bulletin, Question Everything. She discuses her use of writing notebooks, where she tops and ends pages with questions. She writes:

At every stage of my work, questions are my most essential writing tools. I use them to move through to the other side of murky. It’s only by stepping into that unknown and uncomfortable space repeatedly during my process that I can become more deliberate in the story I’m telling.

Read the full essay.

Also this month from Glimmer Train:

Posted in Creativity + Inspiration.
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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L.L. Barkat

I’d love to see one of her notebooks with all the questions. 🙂

“What if” is always a wonderful question, especially for finding your way to something new. I also like to ask “Why?”

Why is this character saying this, as opposed to that? Why this setting? Why this plot point? Does it go beyond the arbitrary… or is there a deep-seated reason for this and that choice?

And, great Merton quote.