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Four Good Questions for Writers

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I recently wrote a short list of the worst questions to ask a writer.

You can check out that list here and here.

Let’s focus on the positive this time around and discuss what questions writers want, and even love, to hear.

1. “Why do you love being a writer?”

Image by TeroVesalainen via Pixabay

This question shows that the person asking it has a genuine curiosity about you and your interests.

My answer: Writing helps me make sense of life’s nonsense. Writing helps me feel better about anything that confuses or frustrates me, even when I don’t find any clear-cut answers.

2. “What’s the toughest writing project (interview/article/book, etc.) you’ve ever had?”

This may seem surprising that a writer would want to talk about the tough parts of writing. But many writers take pride in persevering during rough interviews, difficult research and other writing-related projects.

Freelance journalist Corbie Hill agrees.

“I’d personally like to get questions about stories I didn’t get right, because these stick in my mind,” he said.

“Right off the top of my head, I can name ten or fifteen stories I botched and even a few I wish had never seen print. They don’t stick in my mind out of any sense of shame or guilt, but rather because mistakes are fantastic learning opportunities.”

3. “Where can I read your work?”

This is a much better question than “Why have I never heard of you?”

Writers want as many people as possible to read their blogs, books, magazine articles and other writing pieces. That is, once we get our own inner critic and other insecurities under control. 

So, we are more than happy to tell you which magazines, websites, bookstores and other places feature our work.

Writer Lisa Tomey recalls a great conversation about her writing.

“Last holiday season I was at a party with mostly people who were investors,” she said. “When I was introduced as a writer who also does some technical tax help, I was greeted with very positive responses.

“I was asked about my areas of expertise, what web resources were helpful, about my published material and I realized I was evidently a rarity for this group.

“Only one person mentioned he was going to write a book when he got time. I used that as an opportunity to mention the advantages of ghostwriters. I can easily get nervous talking about myself, but it really is our way of getting business.”

Speaking of getting new business…

4. “Can I pay you to do this writing or editing project?”

Most writers are happy to bring on a new, paying client for a writing and/or editing project.

If you need help writing a company report, editing a book, posting on social media or with another project, you can ask as long as you’re willing to pay for these tasks.

If you’re not willing to pay for help with writing or editing, don’t ask a professional writer to help you.

Like most other professionals, writers strive to maintain some sense of work-life balance. That means spending their working hours working with current paying clients and/or looking for new paying clients, and spending the rest of their time with family and friends.

A Bonus Question

“Where do you get your ideas?”

Ask this question with caution.

Some writers love this question. Others don’t.

I like this question. Most writers who are also teachers or public speakers like this question. After all, part of a writing class teacher’s job is to teach students how to come up with ideas for their work.

Also, if the conversation is already going well, then this is probably a good question to ask.

But, if the conversation isn’t going well, skip this question. You might get a sarcastic answer.

Final Thoughts

I hope this list of questions helps the next time you’re chatting with a writer, whether it’s informally at a party or for a formal interview.

And if you’re a writer, feel free to share this list and compare notes with other writers or to share a few hints with those who don’t write for a living.

 

What is a good or bad question you’ve been asked about being a writer? Let us know the good, the bad, the funny and other interesting questions you’ve heard after telling someone you’re a writer, by leaving a comment in the comments section below.

Are you working on your next blog post, or writing content for a client? Do you ever feel “stuck” while writing?

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