Learning to Ask

by Britt on September 7, 2011

A Woman with QuestionsAsking a question is embarrassing for a moment, but not asking is embarrassing for a lifetime. — Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore, 2006, p. 255. (Hat tip to The Technium)

A personal failing of mine involves questions, or more accurately the asking of questions. What makes this so crazy is that I’m curious. I like learning new things, and in certain situations, I’ll ask one question after another. But I’m also big on figuring things out for myself. So sometimes I’ll wander around a store looking for something or spend hours online trying to figure out how to do something new because I do not want to ask the question. At times, my pursuit of self sufficiency gets a bit ridiculous. (In case you’re wondering, I don’t like asking for directions either; I map it out ahead of time.)

However, I’m discovering that refusing to ask questions is costing me in other ways. Sometimes a project gets dragged out for much longer than it needs to be if I’d just asked, but heaven forbid I don’t appear competent or fully knowledgeable on something. Knowing that I have the problem has helped and prompted me to ask questions at times when I wouldn’t have in the past, but it’s also spilled over into other areas.

Asking for Help

Living on one’s own can’t help but make you more willing to experiment and figure out how to do things solo. But, just like my aversion to asking questions, I sometimes go too far. One winter I ordered a new chair. I picked up the new chair from the furniture store and got it to my house. Since my mother knows me so well, she tried to make me promise to wait until I had help to move the chair into the house. I don’t know if I actually promised or just made the reassuring statements that we all tell our mothers. After considering all my options, I decided that it was possible for me to move the chair myself. Luckily I damaged neither myself, the chair, or the house in the process, but there were several moments when I wondered what the hell I was doing and why I didn’t wait for help.

It Feels Like a Weakness

Perhaps I’m in the minority, but asking questions or for help feels like a weakness (even if it’s not). Logically I know this isn’t true, but emotionally it feels very true. By posing the question or request, I’m setting myself up to either be helped or mocked, and for some reason, I assume that the more likely outcome is the latter. This expectation has lessened to a degree as I’ve surrounded myself with real friends over the years, but it hasn’t fully stamped out that tiny kernel of skepticism that I’m better off asking for nothing. It also hasn’t stopped me from wondering about what I’ve missed because I’ve chosen to remain silent.

A Question a Day

In the same vein as an apple a day, I think it may be worthwhile to challenge myself to a question a day, and not just any question, but one that makes me uncomfortable. (And no, it won’t be because the question is tacky.) Few questions will result in anything worse than being told, “No,” and recovering from “no” is doable. But I am tired of wondering, perhaps enough to actually do something, like ask the question.

So here’s my question for today: what get’s in the way of you asking your questions or asking for help?




Debunking the Myth of Easy

Brown and Pink Ragged Quilt

by Britt on September 1, 2011

Last weekend, I got to try out my other skills when I participated in a local, handmade fair. When I’m not pounding away at the keyboard, I’m usually making things with fabric and yarn.  I’d tried selling my work on Etsy, but had allowed other things to get in the way of finishing more projects, so I looked at this fair as great way to get unstuck. For six weeks I worked like mad to finish old projects and wrap up new ones. It was a great feeling to see so many tangible things from my many hours of hard work. So it was a disappointment to hear my work and time readily dismissed throughout the day.

“I have that pattern at home.”

“I could sew that.”

“That’s too much money.”

It’s one thing if someone doesn’t like my work, but I was baffled to hear in one form or another the idea that what I did was so easy they could either replicate it themselves or didn’t see the value. The price I put on my items covers the cost of materials and maybe minimum wage for the number of hours worked. I do the work because I love it, but I refuse to let people dismiss my hard work, and by connection the hard work of others like me.

Not Only Handmade

The perception that something is easy to do seems to have taken hold in a way I haven’t seen previously. While I appreciate fully the power of technology to make certain tasks more accessible to a wider number of people, technology does not completely counter the need for skills or frankly, a lot of hard work.

Think about the people in the online world who’ve achieved great success. Without fail there’s always the dismissers, the people who are quick to say, “I could do that,” but never do. They’re quick to criticize, usually without offering a valid alternative.

I’m tired of seeing and hearing people who “don’t” attack the people who “do.”

You don’t have to like my work, but don’t you dare say that it’s easy or has no value. Maybe not to you, but unless you’re willing to ante up, I don’t want to hear it anymore.

If you want to have a best-selling book, write one. Quit slamming people who’ve already got one. If you want to host a widely popular webinar AND charge money for it, then figure out what the market wants and do it. If you want a custom quilt, then by hell, buy the 12 different fabrics, cut out 200+ pieces, and sew the damn thing together.

It’s not easy to sit down and come up with words that string together into powerful sentences and come together to make big ideas. And it’s not easy to take your version of the blank canvas and create something out of nothing. It make may look easy, but that’s just the result of time and a willingness to do the hard work.

So the next time you see me, please don’t say, “I could do that, too.” I highly doubt it, and you’ll just piss me off.




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