How is the Question by Beth Barany

As a young twenty-something, I went through an intense WHY phase. It didn’t seem to get me anywhere, just generated more guesses and more stories. A boyfriend told me that that asking WHY was a useless endeavor. I didn’t want to believe him, yet I was no closer to any satisfying answers.

Asking WHY got me searching for reasons.


When I was in eighth grade, Mrs. Maffei taught us how to answer essay questions. Then she gave us three-hour essay exams, like I eventually had as an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley. My eighth grade teacher was preparing us for college, teaching us how to analyze questions, and threw us into muddling through answering them.

From that experience, I never forgot the power of asking questions. Mrs. Maffei instilled in me a menu of keywords that acted as a decoder for any essay question. I kept that list in a plastic sleeve with other important writing resources and eventually posted it on my blog here.

“Want better answers? Ask better questions?”

So ask yourself, “How can I ask a better question here?”

HOW… A great word you can use to open any tight-lipped topic, like prying open a can. Just apply a little finesse and a little pressure. And voila, you have an answer!

In other words, HOW questions — like any good questions — can focus your attention for an extended period of time and spur you into action.

How is a good question to ask, like:

  • “How do I go from here to there?”
  • “How am I feeling?”
  • “How can I be ready?”

Asking HOW got my brain searching for solutions.


What does any of this have to do with writing and our creativity?

When we’re stuck — when I’m stuck — it’s hard and it feels yucky.

When I remember that I can, I ask a question, like “What would I like?” Or “What am I trying to say here?” Or if I’m editing, I can ask, “How would I like this passage to go?”

Other HOW questions you can apply to your writing:

  • How can I reach my readers?
  • How can I convey this [specific emotion] in this scene?
  • How do I best get into my creative flow?
  • How can I honor my creative vision of this story and still meet the needs of my genre?


What other HOW questions can you come up with that will help you with your writing, editing, or promotions?

Share them in the comments below. I’d love to hear them!


Beth Barany, Creativity Coach for WritersHi! I’m Beth Barany, an award-winning novelist, master neurolinguistic programming practitioner, and certified creativity coach for writers.

Through my courses, programs, workshops and consultations, I specialize in helping writers experience clarity, so they can write, revise, and proudly publish their novels to the delight of their readers.

All my courses are packed with useful hands-on information that you can implement right away. I run an online school for fiction writers here and a 12-month group coaching program to help novelists get published here. I also offer consultations for writers here.

You may also like...

  • Mary Van Everbroeck says:

    Helpful, and motivating Post. This Morning I asked myself, “Why not try my hand at writing Short Stories and editing them as a way of acclimating myself to editing the novel I’ve written?” Taking little bites rather than consuming the entire sandwich could be a viable option for me.

  • Beth Barany says:

    So glad it was helpful and motivating, Mary. I so love your question and think it’s a Fabulous idea! And how I eased into actually writing romance.

  • >