Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dumb Questions

I used to think there was no such thing as a dumb question. When I first took over the "boss" job at work, there was no handover from the previous person and I was pretty much floundering. After my tenth stupid (to me) question of the admin staff, I apologised for asking so many dumb questions. The other person said, "I'd much rather you asked a million dumb questions and then did it right, than guess and have to ask for help to clean up the mess." What a pleasure she was to work with!

Since then, I've worked on that principle a lot of the time, in class as well as out. New writers can't be expected to know everything when they first start (that's why they're in a class - they want to find out) and that's how I learned too. I will never forget the wonderful help Michael Dugan (famous Australian children's writer and poet) gave me when I first started writing and publishing children's books. It made a huge difference to me, and I like to try and pay that forward whenever I can.

Mind you, I do still hear an occasional question that really does indicate the asker needs to rethink their words. Like the person in a seminar last year who said "I have an idea for a story and I want to know how to get it published". The audible intake of breath from everyone said it all. If you haven't even written anything before you start asking about publication, then you're probably better off trying something else.

These days, I am no longer the "boss", thank goodness (they let me escape back to being a teacher), but I still have to deal with a lot of admin as part of my job, and my new pet hate is the burial expert. As in "I didn't know what to do with this so I pretended it didn't exist and buried it on my desk under all the other things I am supposed to be doing". Coming a close second is the duck-shover - "I didn't know what to do with this so I shoved it into someone else's In Tray". When I'm feeling negative about these two, I can't help but think of all the extra hours of work they create for other people, and then I think that in my case, those hours are writing time! Shame on them!


Kristi Holl said...

I just may put a burial expert and a duck-shover in my next book. (I had a teenager like that once--just didn't know there was a name for it.) Good points here!

Sherryl said...

Here's where I admit I made the first one up, and the second one is an old term of my mother's.
Glad you liked them!

Tracey said...

Er, hope that wasn't me!

Sherryl said...

No, of course not. You're the person whose desk makes me feel better! At least until I lose something again. But I never lose my To Do list.

Tracey said...

Is that because my desk is so disorderly that yours looks well ordered in comparison? lol.

Yes, you're very good at lists. I should be better. They're always the first thing I lose!