Scott Kurtz, creator of Player versus Player and almost innumerable other projects over the years has been on quite a few different podcasts. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got for a career in the arts came from one of those podcasts, when he told a story about someone who was having a bad day railing on him.
The short version of the story is this – Scott Kurtz asked a question of an established hand in the field, and he explained that if he didn’t already know the answer, he had no business being there. That old adage that there are no stupid questions isn’t untrue because of this, but you need to find the answers for yourself sometimes.
Writer’s groups are often overrun with those individuals who have no interest in doing any actual research to prepare for their careers. Whether we’re talking about understanding the publishing industry, understanding how to write, or anything like that, they come to the table asking questions that are better solved by a single Google search.
In my view, this comes down to respect. If we are in a writing group, and you can’t be bothered to look for an answer yourself before asking a question, then it shows that you respect my time less than yours. There are writer’s conventions, nearly infinite blog posts, books, and countless other resources out there. If you don’t yet understand the most basic aspects of character creation or of writing, perhaps you should do some research before you begin asking questions.
We have all seen it – the same remedial questions asked time and time again in a writing group. Explain the Oxford comma, how do you get an agent, and so on. By continuing to entertain these questions and individuals, many writing groups are held back. Instead of discussing how to best realize the three or five act structure in a particular narrative, so many writing groups are stuck trying to explain to people who don’t want to do their research whether they can write a story in first person instead of third (an actual question I’ve heard asked). Not all writers want to go pro with this, but if you’re dedicated to your craft, your time might be better spent around writers who are continuing to push themselves, rather than those who are making their first attempts.
Respect your fellow writers and authors by trying to find answers for yourself before asking others. It contributes better to everyone for you to come in with an informed question, rather than with no information at all. Plus, it saves you from getting the wrong answers from other people who don’t know what they’re talking about.