The very first Professional Grown Up Writer thing I did was attend the Writer’s Police Academy. (Highly recommend, by the way. Nice people, interesting lessons, and you get to tell your mom “I’m spending part of this weekend in jail!”)
Lisa Gardner was one of the Big Important Guests and I went to her lecture. During her speech she talked about how one of the things that contributes to her success is that she stopped being afraid to just… ask people for things.
The example she used was a body farm that she just called and said “Hi, I’m a writer and I’d like to come visit.” The first person was like “Um… let me see if we do that?” and the next thing she knew, she was getting a tour.
I’ve always kept that story in the back of my mind. I don’t particularly like drawing attention to myself, and the idea of asking for a favor from a stranger, near stranger, or not-quite-a-friend-yet-acquaintance is extremely stressful.
Recently I ran into a problem with book two. I set part of the story in a particular place and had no actual idea of what such a place would look like, how any of the fancy equipment in it worked, or anything.
Now, I have a friend at dance class who works at such a place. It took me about a month to work up the courage to ask her if I could get a tour of her workplace.
She said yes! I got to spend an evening being taken through the space, not only by her but by a coworker of hers with even greater insight.
Ergo, I’d like to pass on Lisa Gardner’s excellent advice- don’t be afraid to ask people for things you need.
Some organizations, like the FBI, have resources already set up for writers. The rest don’t seem to have much of a problem with working with your on an individual level.
This doesn’t just apply to big organizations either. I’ve mentioned at least one of my friends who helps me on a regular basis with this writing stuff. I have another friend who rubber ducks for me regularly. Even Kevin gets roped in regularly to help me untangle plot points.
It’s kind of awful at the beginning, asking people for help, but it does seem to be getting easier as I go. The more people don’t say ‘no’ the more my confidence builds. Just make sure you’re not a jerk when you ask, and make sure you go in with a clear idea of what you want to get out of the favor. It’s really easy to get distracted by personal interest, but this is a Grown Up Writer interaction so make sure you don’t miss anything you might regret leaving out later.
Anyone else have trouble asking for help? What gets you through it?
P.S. Book Two is now officially ready to start over, thanks to my dance friend!