Questions About Writing: 5 Essential Questions That Will Focus Your Writing Mindset

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Do you have questions about writing like, “How do I make a living as a writer?” or, “How do I write a bestselling book?”

questions about writing

These are the wrong questions to ask about the writing process because the writing questions you ask yourself will change your mindset and how you approach your creative writing.

What are the best questions to ask about your own writing?

In this article, I'm going to share the five essential questions aspiring writers should ask themselves if they want to improve their writing skills.

The Power of Questions

I first decided that I wanted to become a writer when I was seventeen years old.

I was in my room reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens for high school, and for some reason the main character (and supporting cast) and the story touched me so deeply that—for a moment—I felt connected.

It was one of the first books that made me feel not alone.

You see, like many kids, I was bullied in school, and for me it had the effect of silencing me. I didn't trust people and I had very few friends. But for some reason, reading that book at that moment, it was as if Charles Dickens had reached through 120 years of history and spoken directly to me.

In that moment, that question people always ask when you're growing up popped into my head: “What do you want to be when you grow up?

Somewhat naively, I thought, “Maybe I should do this? Maybe I should be a writer.”

Because wouldn’t it be amazing to inspire this feeling in others?

To reach through words and pages and connect with a reader so they knew they also weren't alone, that there is one person, at least, who feels like they do?

In other words, I wanted to become a writer so I could connect to others.

And by asking myself great questions—specifically these five essential questions about writing—I started to overcome writer's block and hold onto my reason to not only write, but finish my book.

And all the ones after that.

5 Good Questions for Writers

There are five questions that have been most transformative for me in my writing, and I believe they're important for you, too. Ask yourself:

1. Why do you write?

George Orwell, in an essay about why we write, said this:

[We write out of] sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one…. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.

In other words, Orwell says we write to be admired.

But honestly, I think George Orwell was wrong. Fame, admiration, self-centered vanity aren't really what we're looking for.

We write to connect to others. Writers or not.

The truth is, being known, being loved, is so much better than being admired. Being loved gives us a chance for a personal experience that changes lives.

Just look at what Amanda Palmer said:

For most of human history, artists have been part of the community. Connectors and openers, not untouchable stars. Celebrity is about a lot of people loving you from a distance. But the internet—and the content we’re freely able to share on it—is about taking it back. It’s about a few people loving you up close, and about those people being enough.

Ask yourself, “Why do you write?”

Why do you really write? Is it about fame? Vanity? Celebrity? Or is it deeper than that?

Do you write to connect?

Good writing comes from writers who pour words onto the page with their heart.

And while asking published writers craft questions like, “How did you choose your point of view?” and “How much world building do you do before writing your story?” are great interview questions to ask for writing advice, they won't necessarily give you the momentum you need to write through the tough times.

Resistance will come.

All writers experience hardship at one point or another. But when you ask the right questions, the ones that empower your writer's mindset, you will find the reason to write through the difficult parts.

And then, you'll finish your book.

2. How do you change people?

I think it's great to make money at writing. I think it's important to get paid for your work.

However, the question, “How do I make a living writing?” is the wrong question to ask yourself.

Instead, ask yourself how you CHANGE people with your writing. How can you change people with your stories?

Because if you can inspire transformation in readers, they will pay whatever you ask for your book.

3. What can you write that no one else can?

If you can write something unique, something different from anything else in the market, something that people also like, your fans will buy everything and anything you ask.

While there are no original stories, it's always important for writers to put their own creative twist on stories that have already been done—and that have proven their impact on readers.

If you're interviewing a writer, this could be a cool question to ask: “What have you written that no other writer could write?”

What makes your writing unique? Why can nobody else write this book?

It's also an important question to ask yourself before you write your own book.

4. How do you connect your emotions to your story?

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader,” said Robert Frost.

How do you get so deep into your characters (or else choose characters similar to you and your story) so that you can summon the emotional depth necessary to tell an entertaining and transformative story?

What this mean is how can a reader live vicariously through the main character's journey that they, like the protagonist, change after reading the book?

While plots drive the external parts of a story, the internal arcs of characters are what communicate theme. And these messages are what readers carry with them after they're done reading, and likely try to apply to their own mindsets about life.

Don't underestimate the emotional influence you can have on readers. In fact, prioritize it.

5. How can you live a story as interesting as the ones on the page?

Look at the writers you most admire. See how they took risks with their lives?

Ernest Hemingway, Mary Shelley, John Steinbeck, Virginia Woolf—they all lived lives as interesting as the ones they wrote about. Part of their marketing (their platform you might say) was based on how they lived, not just how they wrote.

The best writing comes from experience.

And so, your biggest asset as a writer comes from your experiences.

How are you going to create experiences that help you be a better writer? How will this help you connect with multiple readers, instead of one particular type of person?

What Questions Do You Bring to Your Writing?

Here are some questions I've heard from other writers:

  • Why do I struggle at the end?
  • What if no one connects with my art?
  • What if I try to write one story and it becomes something else?
  • What do I do with my fear?
  • What if I’ve outgrown my story?
  • Does rewriting always make your story better?

All of these are questions about writing worthy of your time and attention. However, if you want to become a writer—one with the motivation to make a career as an author—consider the five questions in this post.

These are the questions that will change your writing mindset first.

How about you? What questions are you bring to your writing? Let me know in the comments.

PRACTICE

Pick one person you would like your writing to connect with.

Then, write something just for him or her.

Write for fifteen minutes. When you're finished, share your practice in the comments section. And if you share, please be sure to give feedback on a few practices by your fellow writers.

Happy writing!

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

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35 Comments

  1. Miriam N

    Hey Joe 🙂 I’m back! not sure for how long but at least for this post. I’ve been struggling for a long time and quite recently with my writing. Everyone seems to be pushing it down and inserting their opinions as fact and I’m starting to get lost in it. I might do this whenever you have a post to try to pull myself out. I hope I can keep up with my writing. Here’s my practice and thanks for the wonderful post.

    It’s not easy to be a dreamer. To have so much light and imagination in your being that people notice, and shun you for it. It’s not easy to stand out from the crowd of different or flawed. It’s not easy to be different. But different is the only thing that the world needs so much but lacks greatly. Few dreamers share their dreams with the world and bend to conformity. Each instance of this is a dreadful loss, we lose something, something important.

    I know it’s hard to be bullied and told to conform. The words will stick forever, growing stronger with age. “You’re not good enough, why try? You can’t win, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re not a professional, why would anyone listen to your voice, your message?”

    Don’t listen to the voices inside your head. You’re so much better then they portray you. Keep going, don’t stop. We need your gift and your message. Without it the world won’t survive. Keep reading keep dreaming, don’t listen to what others say you are. Follow your heart, dream like there is no tomorrow, sing as if no one is watching. Dream on, dream on, we need your light.

    Reply
  2. Nancy

    I agree: it’s not about money. It’s about a compulsion to connect. But you’ve nailed my questions: 1) What do I do with my fear?–certainly not what I’m doing now, editing the life out of my finished manuscript. 2) Does rewriting make my manuscript better? I’m beginning to doubt it. I think rewriting is a fear of submission. Even though it has already won a contest, and they are waiting for my final draft.

    Reply
  3. James Hall

    I think writers write for different reasons. I find the strongest reason I write is to escape into my stories. I love to create. There is something amazing about becoming lost in your novel, watching a world unfold at your fingertips.

    I think connection is really fulfilling after I write. The connections I make with people and their interest in my writing drives me to complete my stories and to edit them.

    When I’m truly lost in my story and my characters, their emotions become evident. Its amazing to take the adventures along with my characters, to not only see, write, but also feel their emotions.

    If I ever make money at this hobby I love, it will be completely incidental.

    Reply
  4. Sarkis Antikajian

    Most people want to be in the arts assuming they value the arts. So we try to be in one of the major three, painting, music or writing. Soon enough we realize that physically or mentally we are not fit to be musicians or painters or writers and we eliminate those that for some reason turn out only to be fantasies.

    For me to be a painter was something that I thought I can do and I would be able to do if I put effort into it, and I went in it wholeheartedly trying to learn it the best I can and do it as much as I can even though I spent most of my adult years in something else, the sciences. But I , also, always had the urge to write but writing does not come easy as painting does. So if you ask me why I want even to try to do it, my answer is simply why not if it gives me self-fulfillment one way or another. Because writing does not come easy for me I do not do it everyday even though I wished I were able to, reason being the difficulty and frustration that I always face when I try to write.

    For me Music is out of the question for many reason and I have tried dabbling in it but gave it up. Of the other two I wished writing was as easy for me as painting is, it would have been my first choice.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth Westra

      Just because writing doesn’t come easy doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t do it. Every time I write I struggle. It doesn’t come easy to many writers. Writing is hard work, and you have to work at it. Most writers don’t have the words flowing effortlessly off their pens or off their fingertips on to the keyboard. They must work at it. If that’s what you want to do keep at it.

      Reply
      • Sarkis Antikajian

        Elizabeth, you are correct, any activity that is worthwhile is never easy. I think what it all amounts to is self-fulfillment more so than a money-making proposition whether it is in painting or writing. Most artists have to depend on another income, painters rarely make a living off their artwork. They work for less than a dollar an hour selling their work, and I cannot imagine a writer or a poet is able to make a living off their writing unless they are so well known and consistently in demand that the publisher pays them lump sum in advance for any work they produce. What is important is that we do this first for ourselves. Yes, if our work is appreciated and gives others enjoyment and makes their life richer then that is a wonderful accomplishment even if it is not through monetary gains. But the way I look at it to call myself a writer I need to produce work consistently and it needs to be in a quality that I am satisfied with as the artist or the writer. For me the urge to write is so strong that I keep on trying with the hope that it will become much easier through hard work and in time. But, regardless it is worth the effort.

        Reply
        • Miko

          Why not combine writing and painting? I’m not very experienced in either yet, but I know that my strengths lie in visual storytelling. I’ve always wanted to be an author as a kid, but my imagination is better at conjuring images than words. So I tell stories through pictures.
          Try doing comics, or writing for animation. That way your experience in visual art will help you transition to writing as well.

          Reply
          • Sarkis Antikajian

            Thanks Miko for your suggestion. I do write a monthly newsletter that deals with art subjects. It is actually a blog rather than a newsletter but I call it a newsletter on my website, because it goes only to subscribers. A blog, as I understand it, anyone can read.

  5. Jean Blanchard

    The first book in which I became thoroughly engrossed was, ‘Of Human Bondage’, by Somerset Maugham. I was in the story and it was in me and; I was moved for all time by compassion and a strong sense of injustice. From that time onwards I have wanted to write, to put into words what moves humanity and find and record the lives of characters; and what moves, connects and relates difference. I am never sure of what I am writing and how a reader will read and take it to themselves. I am not frightened to write but I am frightened of being misunderstood or failing to relate the awe and wonder of human stories: the astonishment and sheer magic of what we are – the human condition of joy and sorrow, pain and death. So, having written that, I don’t know if it makes any sense at all or that where I am coming from will be rubbished. That’s what I fear. (164)

    Reply
  6. Farah Diba

    I think you are so on point Joe, especially about why we write. Orwell was definitely wrong. Your story about reading a Tale of Two cities and feeling relieve because of finally you Dickens understood something you were hungering for, something you wanted to hear, that’s where the power of writing is. In the connections.

    Thank you, for making it so explicit because now we can easily tap into this internal motivation. I’ve had one great poetry teacher that told me, “whenever you write, address it to someone, whether it’s Rilke or your father.” The takeaway: as we write, the clarity of who we want to connect with is so important. Or the writing will suffer from a lack of personality, clarity and purpose.

    Reply
  7. Jean Blanchard

    Hi, Joe, here is my 15 minute Practice written for the person I’m thinking of:

    Marie could look back over her life and see in all clarity how she became a member of the middle classes. It wasn’t her background, she was classed as Traditional Working Class. It wasn’t her money because what she had ever had she couldn’t hang on to. It wasn’t her education either. Marie never passed a scholarship or earned a diploma or a degree. She wasn’t very attractive or well-groomed: in fact she was rather plain and not a little bit peculiar looking. Yet she was personable, articulate and had a great sense of humour and seemed, on the front of it, quite creative.

    Marie was just the sort of person the Church needed and it nearly killed her. She moved from pew to ministry training, to ordination and to being the vicar of seven parishes. Then she became lost in the class gaps. Marie never fitted; couldn’t keep up, felt socially excluded by the middle class, university culture and wealth of the national church. These days she keeps in touch, but only just. She spends her time whittling wood or drinking wine in the local pub and talks frequently to anyone who will listen about the socialisation of the Christian Church. (202)

    Reply
    • Ariel Benjamin

      Oooo, this is a fascinating character. I like this piece as a third-person narrator giving background, but it doesn’t feel like the story got started. The good thing is, this lays out an interesting story I’d like to read more of. And if Marie is in anyway related to the person you’re thinking of, I’m sure they’d find a character like this refreshing.

      Reply
      • Jean Blanchard

        Marie is no relation of the person I’m thinking of, Ariel. But it is because of the kind of person I’m thinking of: middle class, wealthy, educationally and socially well-connected, that Marie finds herself alienated, (like so many others of her class), whittling wood and drinking wine in pubs. Marie simply doesn’t fit. The Church has almost lost a priest. That is Marie’s story thus far.

        Reply
        • Ariel Benjamin

          Ohh I see. That honestly makes it even more intriguing.

          Reply
  8. Debra johnson

    I posed this question to myself yesterday and I realized what the problem was – I cant ( and dont from past experiences) cant writ when I am happy in a relationship. Right now I am happy. When I am unhappy I can write what I want to happen. So if I want to continue writing and I do, I need to find another way to write or another style instead of love stories. Thats my new challenge.

    Reply
    • Ingo Hampe

      Hi Debra. Someone once told me that for him living and writing were counterparts. When he is unhappy he writes happy storries and whan he is happy he is able to write unhappy storries. I wish you all the best and that your happy relationship opens a the door to a new dimension of writing.

      Reply
      • Debra johnson

        Thanks Ingo I am exploring other ways to create from nothing, we’ll see what happens

        Reply
  9. Ingo Hampe

    To my childish heart
    I know that you are scared. You think you can never do it on your own. And there is
    nobody who can explain to how to do it.
    Don’t be scared. At least you found Socrates. You discovered that you are a bit like him. Asking people strange questions. Make them feel uncomfortable. Wondering about them self. He made you wonder about yourself and question yourself, what you know.
    But that was ok. It was more than that. It felt great.
    Oida ouk eidos – I know that I know nothing. These words solaced you. To know nothing was nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary. It was fundamental. It was
    the first step on your journey to the truth.

    Reply
    • Jean Blanchard

      Just a simple ‘thank you’, Ingo …

      Reply
  10. LaCresha Lawson

    When I was a little girl, I would make little books out of “post it” notes and staple them together. I would have a title and “Scribble” the interior as the words. It looked so cute from what I remember. That was my 1st book. I think I have improved and have grown so much from that time……

    Reply
    • Ariel Benjamin

      That’s really cute! I think the whole process of kids discovering the writer in themselves is always a gem. I have fond memories myself–my “diaries” were more stories than anything else

      Reply
  11. LilianGardner

    Many thanks for your post, Joe.
    I write because I love it and because I would like to share my stories. I honestly admit that years back, I wanted to write for fun and money, but not for money any more. Writing is my favourite passtime. It takes my mind off every day problems and allows me to share my character’s lives.
    When writing, I also wish to satisfy myself by creating ‘good’ content, with choice words, descriptions, and a flowing, interesting text. To achieve this I’m constantly learning from posts on The Write Practice and dipping into manuals like The Elements of Style. Editing more than once, certainly improves my story as does re-reading it after a week or two.
    ! wish I could write like you, Joe, or like Hemmingway, Bronte, Steinbeck and many modern writers, too.

    I haven’t done the exercise you sugggested, but will do.

    Reply
  12. Diamond Fox

    The Writer and The Critic

    “I am going to write a novel. I am going to write several pages a day until it is done. I will nurture my creative side with fun outings and buy pretty pens and pretty journals.”
    “Shut the hell up, you dumb red-head before I pimp slap you into hell.” The critic said. He pulled up a gold throne and took his place in my writing space. He smelled like crack smoke and looked like Don King mixed with Mr. T.
    I wrote some days and some days I procrastinated. The critic lit a smelly pipe and blew smoke in my face all day, every day.
    “I am writing. You should go away.” I begged, tears welling up in my brown eyes.
    “Bitch, I am here to stay. Turn up that reggae. I like that shit.”
    “Get the hell outta here, you fat pig mutha….. I hate you and what you stand for. I am going to write no matter what. It is my destiny. I am a red-headed bitch that is gonna write mutha…..and I don’t give a…..” I screamed at the obese black devil man.
    “I will go for awhile but I will return. It is a struggle and will always be a struggle. But one thing I hate is a woman who yells at me with confidence. I can’t handle a confident woman.” The critic whined then hauled ass. Poof, he was gone but the smell lingered. I sprayed with Glade then typed a few pages. I felt like a million bucks.

    Reply
    • Bruce Carroll

      This was surprisingly moving! Part of me wants to suggest you rewrite it a couple of times, but a bigger part of me likes the “unfinished” quality of this piece.

      Reply
      • Diamond Fox

        I will not rewrite it. It is a true declaration of what my critic is like. He is a hatefilled stank mofo who I have to regulate daily. And he is capable of hitting and biting.

        Reply
  13. Saubhag Trasy

    I have never been the kind of guy who was into reading or writing but then one day, when I hit the rock bottom of my life, I just got an idea for a story. An idea which didn’t let me sleep for countless nights till I bled it out.
    Given the fact that the idea was largely influenced by my experiences in personal life, I decided to name the story ‘Upset’.
    The word ‘upset’ has two meanings, one which means the state of anxiety, anger, guilt, etc. which summarises most of my life and the other, is an unexpected outcome of a fight which is how I hope my story ends.
    I am writing this story for all those people who have caused me pain, for the those boys who held me by my collar and pushed me into a wall, for those teachers who thought that I could never achieve anything in life and for those girls who rejected me for whatever reason. And don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to explain my pain to them, I am trying to hurt them back. I am not seeking to build a connection but to severe the connection between me and all of them.
    Writing about the helpless situations that I found myself in and the mistakes that I made on my own accord gives me a mild feeling of immoral satisfaction.
    I just simply do not seek anything more glorious than that from my writing.

    Reply
  14. Bruce Carroll

    Ironically, after reading this a dear friend asked about my trip to see BABYMETAL in Chicago last month. This is what I wrote:

    BABYMETAL Live at Chicago’s House of Blues

    As you know, I had been looking forward to the concert for a long time – nearly six months! The morning of the show, I woke to Doki Doki Morning.

    I saw my wife off to work and our daughter off to school. I had had breakfast, shaved, and wore the outfit I had put together during my months-long wait. The outfit included the kitsune (fox) necklace I had made. The fox is BABYMETAL’s symbol.

    I hopped into our new Chevy Trax, clicked OnStar and asked them to download directions to my vehicle. I listened to BABYMETAL the whole way, but I didn’t drive to the House of Blues. No way I was going to drive in “the city” on a night that was supposed to be fun! Instead, I drove to the Metra train station in Morton Grove, Illinois. I arrived and paid for my parking. Two bucks covered 24 hours, and I knew I’d be back long before then. It was about 10 a.m. I had a brief wait for the train and boarded. I didn’t get any weird looks from people, probably because I was pretty close to Chicago at that point, and there are all kinds of interesting-looking people there.

    There was a Cubs game that day. (I think it was opening day, actually.) Several people on the train wore their Chicago Cubs gear, and there were even some children whose parents had pulled them out of school for the game. That made me feel good. More people at the ball game meant fewer people at the concert. Not that it would have mattered, as I found out.

    Most of the passengers deboarded at Wrigley Field (home of the Cubs). I rode on. Oh, and my train ride only cost me five bucks. I wasn’t on a tight budget, and I was doing exceptionally well!

    I arrived at Union Station. I pulled out my smart phone and opened the navigation app. (We live in the future!) I tapped in House of Blues and was easily guided through the streets of Chicago. Since I didn’t know where the House of Blues was, I figured I’d find it first, then pick out a nearby place to have some lunch. Very near Union Station, I passed by Al’s, a restaurant known for its Italian beef sandwiches. I wasn’t sure I wanted to walk all the way back to Al’s, but I made a mental note of it.

    Before I even arrived, I saw the huge letters standing out from the side of the building declaring “House of Blues.” My heart leapt! I was nearly there!

    As I approached I saw people standing outside. Not many, but some. The House of Blues was across the street from me, but looking I could see one person in a skeleton hoodie, and some others with various BABYMETAL T-shirts. Since I had no one with me, I figured I should cross the street and introduce myself. Maybe I could find a friend.

    I passed the House of Blues so I could cross at the corner. Walking back toward the venue, I saw another group of people. There were more of them than in the first group I had seen. They were waiting in a roped-off queue. These were obviously the people with VIP tickets. I did not have a VIP ticket. VIP tickets cost an extra $200 and supposedly get the purchaser closer to the stage. (Because of the way the House of Blues is set up, this turned out not to be the case, making VIP tickets essentially worthless.) The purchaser does not get to meet BABYMETAL or the Kami Band (the band which plays behind the trio. Kami is a pun: Kami means “gods,” and in English the band is referred to as “The Gods of Metal.” But kami also means “hair.” Thus, the trio is backed by a hair band. Har har!). They do not get a photo of the girls (autographed or otherwise). They don’t even get a T-shirt. I wasn’t going to pay $200 just to get closer to the stage.

    When I came to the first group I had spotted (three people at this point), I said, “I think I’ve found friends” and flashed a kitsune (“fox,” but also the name of the handsign BABYMETAL invented. It is a modified “devil’s horns” sign seen at other metal concerts.).

    “You have,” a young woman said, and for a moment I thought she was going to take my hand. She didn’t, but she was most inviting. Introductions were made. There was Jay, an Asian man of about my age, Alex, a young man with kinky brown hair, and the young woman, Ruby. Alex immediately took over the conversation. He was very excited. He had seen BABYMETAL live before, and was certain we were in for a treat. He was an enthusiastic metalhead, and insisted BABYMETAL is very much a metal band (something which is hotly debated online). Soon enough two other people joined us. One was Mike, Ruby’s boyfriend (husband? Her “man?”). The other was Dylan, a 19-year-old from Wisconsin! Alex immediately began telling them how much they were going to enjoy the concert and how metal the band is.

    “I’m not into metal,” Dylan said. “At all.” It took a moment for us to realize he was serious. It turns out Dylan enjoys electronic music. He loves the novelty of BABYMETAL, including their music. But comparisons to Metallica or Iron Maiden don’t impress him. That was when I realized what I had read about BABYMETAL fans was true: They come from all different backgrounds, and have a wide variety of tastes.

    Dylan, as I’ve said, came from Wisconsin, but the Northern end of the state, almost in Minnesota. Ironically, BABYMETAL would be performing just a few miles from his home the very next day. But he had come to Chicago to see them because they would be performing at a festival, whereas they were the sole act at the House of Blues.

    Mike and Ruby had come from Texas. They explained they were spending the weekend in Chicago, mostly so they could tell their friends back home that they went to Chicago for a vacation and not just to see BABYMETAL. They actually had few plans for what they would do for the rest of the weekend.

    Another person joined our group, another Asian man. Jay recognized him and introduced him as Zach. Jay and Zach began talking to each other in Japanese! Here was my chance to practice a bit with them. Turns out they are both Japanese. Jay now lives in California, and Zach is working for a company in Ohio. They met at a previous BABYMETAL concert. In fact, Jay had just seen them a few days earlier in Boston. (It must be nice to have that kind of money.)

    I was rapidly making friends with this group. By now others had shown up. There was a woman whose outfit left no doubt she was a BABYMETAL fan. She had brought snacks to share and games to play while waiting in line. I wondered what she would do with her backpack when we entered the venue, but it turned out they had bins for all kinds of extra gear. There was also a young man from the south side of Chicago who was being very funny. I made the mistake of saying how funny he was and for the next four or more hours he never shut up. He only had about 30 minutes of good material.

    Mike had disappeared, but he returned and was talking to Ruby. They let us in on a secret (a secret which Mike admitted he wasn’t sure he wanted to share): Anyone who goes to the restaurant at the House of Blues and spends a minimum of $20 can skip ahead of the line we were in, entering immediately after the VIP line. This was our chance to get something to eat and get a good spot in the hall! All of our little group went, except for Alex. I’m not sure if he didn’t have any money, or what, but he didn’t choose to go with us.

    The food was excellent (I ordered a French dip sandwich) and reasonably priced. We actually had a hard time getting to $20! Fortunately we could supplement our meal with purchases from the gift shop to make the $20. Mike bought a fedora (ala Blues Brothers) which looked great on him, and I bought some chocolate bars to share in the line, which seemed appropriate since one of BABYMETAL’s songs is Gimme Chocolate.

    We only had about three more hours to wait until they opened the doors. (And another hour and a half inside before the show started, Dylan noted.) A few people walked the length of the line making videos with their cell phones as the rest of us threw up kitsune. (I don’t say kitsunes because nouns in Japanese are both singular and plural.)

    Soon a white limousine drove by. “There they are!” I cried and waved a kitsune in the limo’s direction. Some waved kitsune, but others laughed, assuming I was joking. It seems reasonable to me that if you are waiting for a show featuring celebrities and a limo drives by, there is a very good chance the celebs are riding in that limo. In any case the comedian we had met was still cracking what he thought were jokes and missed the limo entirely. He apparently thought I was saying the fire hydrant across the street looked like the members of BABYMETAL.

    The powers that be moved us to just behind the VIP line, then moved us again when the VIP line got long. Two girls in Japanese kawaii outfits walked by with their parents. “かわいいね!” I exclaimed.

    “かわいい。かわいい、” Jay agreed.

    Not long after the limo drove by, Jay showed us a Twitter post on his phone. It was from the House of Blues, and showed BABYMETAL in their street clothes rehearsing for the show.

    “That means they’re right on the other side of this wall!” I said to Dylan. He and I both jumped and squealed, flapping our hands like a couple of penguin flapping their wings. An awkward moment of silence followed.

    “We totally fangirled on that,” I said.

    “Yeah we did,” Dylan agreed.

    When the doors finally opened for our group, we were instructed to form two lines, men on the right and women on the left. This was so security could frisk us. I was surprised how casual the frisking was. The guy found my wallet, keys and phone, but did not even check my legs, socks, the small of my back or my waistband. It would be pretty easy to sneak something in. This was also where people put backpacks, etc. into the bins.

    When we went into the concert hall, our little group was separated. Jay and Zach had balcony seats. I was on the main floor, and the others had a spot in the モシュシュ (mosh’sh, a word invented by BABYMETAL. It is supposed to be a mosh pit in which no one gets hurt; all of the fun and no violence. As it turns out, that is exactly what it is.). I was not as close as I had hoped, but I was as close as I could get without being in the モシュシュ. In fact, I could look over the pit, so that was a good thing.

    The concert started and the excitement in the air was almost a tangible thing. I forgot to mention that Alex had suggested ear plugs, insisting the show would be extremely loud. Everyone turned down his suggestion. Dylan said he would be deaf by the time he is 30 anyway, and I said as an old guy who has listened to a lot of rock n’ roll with headphones at high volumes, it was too late for me. As it turned out, the show was not unusually loud. I’ve heard much louder concerts. I don’t know if that was because of the band or the venue.

    Probably the biggest thing BABYMETAL has brought to metal is dance. Iron Maiden and Slipknot aren’t dancing around the stage, but BABYMETAL is. When they performed Karate I had my first hint that this would be an unusual concert. The song is not about karate, but rather about striving to do one’s best, even against seemingly impossible odds. At one point in the song, the three girls collapsed onto the stage. Su-metal struggled to her feet then helped the other two to stand, singing the encouraging refrain as she did. I realized there was symbolism in their dancing. This didn’t surprise me, as there is a lot of symbolism in their lyrics. (That may be the subject of another missive, if you’re interested.)

    They have fun songs, of course, touching on the joys of eating chocolate or chewing bubble gum. They performed these as well. But then came a part of the show in which the stage went dark, almost (but not quite) completely black. We could hear the girls speaking in English, telling about how the Fox God (BABYMETAL comes with their own religion) instructed them to tell the world bullying must stop. Then they sang Ijime, Dame, Zettai (Bullying No More, Forever). A partial translation reads:

    Those who got hurt were not only I myself,

    But also those who kept watching me. It was you.

    During the guitar duet, Yuimetal and Moametal engage in a stylized fight as Su-metal covers her eyes, not wanting to see bullying. She then joins in their fight, demonstrating everyone gets hurt by bullying.

    I was surprised to find tears in my eyes. I hadn’t expected this concert to be emotional. But there was more to come.

    For a finale, they performed The One entirely in English. This time I was outright bawling as they sang about how we are all one and that we are strongest when we are united.

    The last notes of The One faded as the audience cheered. The trio exited and I was in shock. Here I was at a concert featuring three teenage girls and I was crying my eyes out. Of course I didn’t want it to end (I’m sure none of us did), so I began to shout, “アンコレ!アンコレ!(Encore! Encore!)” But the audience was very American, and began to chant “Ba-by met-al.” They didn’t even attempt the Japanese pronunciation bebimetal.

    After an appropriate hiatus, the three returned and sang Road of Resistance. It was a fitting end to the concert with an inspiring sing-along portion.

    When they had finished singing, Moametal said, “You make me sooo happy!” (Yes, in English!) Yuimetal followed with, “I’m so happy to see you!” Then Su-metal wrapped it all up with a nice, brief speech, also entirely in English (their English is better than my Japanese). Then they gave their signature “See you!” and exited.

    After the show I reconnected with Mike and Ruby, Jay and Zach. The crowd to purchase merchandise after the show was very thick, so I didn’t bother. I figure I can get all of that stuff on Ebay anyway.

    There was an after party in a sort-of private bar at the House of Blues, but it was noisy, so I didn’t stay. It was pouring rain outside, but when it had slacked off a bit I called an Uber car. I’ve driven for Uber, but this was my first time as a passenger. I think my services are slicker, just sayin’. That turned out to be the most expensive part of my experience, going just over the $20 I had spent on lunch. I went back to the train station, got in my SUV and drove home, listening to BABYMETAL the whole way.

    There are some details I’ve left out, such as the fact that the interior of the House of Blues is one of the gaudiest I’ve ever seen. I may edit this someday, but right now I want to get it to you.

    Thanks for being my friend and taking an interest in what interests me.

    All love,
    Bruce

    Reply
  15. Ariel Benjamin

    “Where’s Eaton?”

    I roll my eyes. The question everyone loves to ask me and that I never have an answer to. “Really, Mom? I don’t know.”

    She stops whirling at the pot over the stove. Then reaching for the sugar, she asks, “Well why don’t you ever know?”

    Shouldn’t the question be, why is he never here, or, why don’t you ever know where he is? I stand up from the table. “You’ve been asking me this question since I was five. And, I always give you the same answer. No one will ever know where he is. Just accept that, Mom.” I shrug.

    She whines. “Well I can’t just accept that, I care about him and he’s your brother. And he doesn’t talk to me but once a year—if that!”

    I shift my weight, glancing at the bright green palm leaves swaying by the window. “I’m going to go find him.”

    Mom smiles. “Conversation always goes the same way, doesn’t it?”

    I turn away, holding back an eye roll. I guess that’s why they always ask me.

    It’s really their fault for naming their son after the cousin they themselves could never find. Like a…modern-day pirate, or something. Or a nomad sage. Maybe I should start at the top of the hill. I’ll find him standing at cliff’s edge breathing in ocean spray. Running away from wife and children.

    I slap the yellow wall on the way out. “This is ridiculous! He lives right down the street!”

    “Huh?” Mom’s already moved her mind on to other things. Must be nice having children to do your dirty work.

    I step into the bright sunlight, plop into my car. I start the engine and roll slowly out the gravel driveway. The sun beams off my old yellow house. I sigh, rolling down the windows. First day back home, and I’m looking for Eaton. I have to laugh.

    Welcome home indeed.

    Reply
    • Alice Sudlow

      This is great! I love the fascinating twist of the two Eatons and the reason why. And I like the hints of lost Eaton’s personality and the guesses of where he might be. I’m guessing lost Eaton is a frequent topic of discussion if he’s the one the narrator assumed Mom was asking about.

      The line “Well I can’t just accept that, I care about him and he’s your brother. And he doesn’t talk to me but once a year—if that!” doesn’t sound quite natural and true as dialogue to me. The sentiment does, but not the words. On the flip side, you’ve done a great job of sprinkling in action and description to keep the scene moving and show us what’s going on and how the characters are responding to each other. Nicely done, and thank you for sharing!

      Reply
      • Ariel Benjamin

        Thanks Alice! Yes, I see what you’re saying. Thanks for pointing that out. I appreciate the feedback!

        Reply
  16. Stella

    Hey.

    I know you’re feeling alone right now. I know you feel like no one ever could or ever will feel the way you do. I’m not here to tell you everything will get better, that God will make a way (although he will.) I’m just here to sit and listen.

    Why do you feel so lonely? You’re part of a race of 6 billion people. Not even counting all those who have gone before you, or all those who are still to come. Yet isn’t it strange that out of six billion, out of the millions you share your city with, the thousands who stream past you on your way to work, the hundreds you bump shoulders and jostle with on the train, and the multitudes of colleagues in your office, you still feel so alone?

    You aren’t alone. I know this sounds like a platitude, but it’s true. Going on statistics alone, at least one person – whether alive or dead, whether known to you or not – has felt the same way you’re feeling right now. And statistics don’t lie. (42% of statistics are made up on the spot.)

    I want to sit here and listen. I know how it feels to have so many people talking to you (talking at you?) and not a single one of them listening. I was laid off recently. Friends, family, well-wishers from all corners of life, saturating me with texts and Facebook messages and well-meaning advice. I hear this firm still has vacancies, have you considered applying there, why don’t you become an academic? And yes, they listened at the start, to my answers to their opening questions. How are you feeling? Have you started applying? But would you want to stay there anyway? But after a while, their voices took over. And I was alone in a storm of well-meaning advice.

    Hey, you just used the phrase ‘well-meaning advice’ twice in the same paragraph. That’s not good form. But that’s okay, because I’m not here to pepper you with a beautiful speech. I’m here to listen.

    Why do you feel so lonely? Really dig down deep – why? Are you trapped in a family where love is in short supply? Are you stuck in a career where no one values your contributions? Do you bear all the trappings of success yet feel that something deeper inside you is missing? I don’t know what your situation is, and maybe you don’t either. After I was laid off, I was depressed for weeks, and it had nothing to do with my prospects for finding another job. But maybe putting a finger on why you feel the way you do could be the first step to finding a way out.

    And that’s another thing. If you don’t want to find a way out, that’s fine too. It’s perfectly alright to feel alone. It’s perfectly alright not to want to do anything about it. I struggled so much with feelings of legitimacy when I was laid off. Almost an anxiety-inception: first you get anxious that you’ve been laid off, then you get anxious that you are anxious that you’ve been laid off. After all, shouldn’t I be moving on? There’s still so much that I have – good friends and good family and good health – so why am I still so depressed? Why can’t I just suck it up and get on with life?

    I don’t know if you’ve watched the movie Inside Out, but there’s a reason why it’s one of my favourites. Because it reminds us that sadness is legitimate. It’s okay to feel sad. You don’t always have to banish her to a little chalk box in the corner so that joy can run your life instead. And it’s okay to feel lonely. You don’t have to feel like it’s only okay to feel lonely for X amount of time, before it suddenly becomes Not Okay.

    I don’t know who you are, and probably never will. Yet I hope reading this helped you somehow. That you found a listening ear, even though you didn’t say a word.

    Take care. And remember that you’re not alone.

    Reply
  17. Sarah Riv

    This is a great list of questions! I’m going to use them in my author about page.

    Reply
  18. Eisen

    I found your fifth question really interesting. It touches on the one topic that I believe can’t be set in stone, that some write to explore what they can not. Others write what they know. More often than not it ends up being a hybrid of the two.

    I have to say that the most interesting life of a writer I’ve come across has had to have been Tolkien. To have been in the trenches of Verdun? You see that in nearly all of his writing he stays away from any themes connected to the War, but then you have the Dead Marshes.

    Reply
  19. Mary Howell

    I used to write for the joy of losing myself in a story, for the satisfaction of the words tumbling out on to the page. Words transcribed from Voices in my head. I used to write. So it was interesting reading this article and questioning why I used to call myself a writer and why I stopped. It’s been a whole year now since the voices and the urgency stopped. Interesting ( for me at least) too t I should chose to write a reply. Maybe, just maybe that small flame can be rekindled. Thanks Joe

    Reply
  20. liz

    I write because my characters have been following me for the last twenty years and they want their story to be told this is the third attempt putting their lives on paper (in my case on computer) even though I know the ending, I’m coming close this last four chapters are proving the most challenging but I just love being in their world and knowing them, yes I feel like they are good and bad friends this is why I write

    Reply

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