Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Question that Changes Things

I’ve been thinking about forward progress and what it takes to get to whatever new place we hope to someday reach. One of the benefits of our recent move is that it has forced my family to look at our lives and our goals and make some decisions about what’s really important to us, and what we really, really want for the future.

This has been a good lesson for me as a parent, because it reminds me how important it is for us (both adults and children) to ask the question why.

Why do we choose to do this or that or something else?
Why does something cost however much it does?
Why does a company pay a certain salary?
Why do individual people act in certain ways?
(And if the answer to why happens to be along the lines of, “because it’s how we’ve always done it,” that’s a sure sign that something needs to change.)

Or, from a kid’s point of view:
Why do adults set rules?
Why do they follow (or not follow) those same rules themselves?
 Why is it necessary to do homework? Or to go to the doctor?  
Why do schools have dress codes if teachers aren’t required to live by the same standards they set for their students?
(And if the adults don’t follow the rules, this is a sure sign to children that adults don’t necessarily know everything—which is also an important lesson, I think.)

For writers, this single question is one of the most important questions we should ask about our characters.
Why do they act the way they do?
Why do they make certain choices?
Why have they become the people they are when the story starts?

There is power in this single question, because the answers to questions beginning with this one word have the ability to spark a chain of events that creates forward momentum. The kind of forward momentum that can change things. Very often for the better.

Think about it. What life-events have been sparked because you asked the question why? 

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