Positive Writer

Writing through doubt and fear, and you can, too!

Creative Flow: There is Magic in Asking Yourself The Right Questions

The wrong questions will destroy your power to create, but the right questions will fill you with inspiration, encouragement and motivation to create work that will blow you (and others) away!

Am I good enough? Do I suck? Should I give up? Will I ever create work that matters? Why can’t I ____? (Fill in the blank.)

Those are the wrong questions. Do you want to free yourself from doubt and create work that matters? Then you need to ask yourself the right questions.

Photo Cred: Dreamstime

Photo Cred: Dreamstime

Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.

– Voltaire – Tweet this quote.

Creative people tend to be the most tortured people I know. And no one tortures us more than we do ourselves. You know it’s true. I can hear you sighing in agreement, wishing it weren’t true.

We tear ourselves up day in and day out wrestling with questions that only serve to feed our doubts about whether we have what it takes and if our work is good enough.

I decided to stop doubting myself.  

But I had to learn how. The answer was in an unlikely place, in the very questions I asked myself and I didn’t even realize I was asking them.

It was excruciatingly painful to have the desire to create something and yet, turn around and talk myself out of it.

Maybe you’ve started projects only to stall midway through because you second guessed yourself?

If so, then you know what I am talking about and you know how it feels. Allow me to assure you – you are not alone.

Will I ever finish?

Have you ever asked yourself if you’ll ever finish your book, or painting, or any creative project? And then answered without even realizing you asked the question with…

It’s too painful, too difficult, and I’m just not cut out for it.

Maybe your answer wasn’t with words. Sometimes it’s more about how the question makes you feel and in turn, how you instinctively act in response.

The question will likely lead to another, such as:

If I was meant to create this, then shouldn’t it be easier?

The answer would invariably be, of course.

Slowly, but surely, stalling or giving up are options you begin to contemplate. The next thing you know six months have passed and you still haven’t written another word or painted another stroke.

The only one way to change this dreadful process is to use: S.A.S.Q.

Stop. Asking. Stupid. Questions. 

Some say there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

I say:

There are stupid questions and if you don’t stop asking them, they will destroy any chance you have of creating the work you want to create.

Kind of dramatic, I know. But creative people like you and me, we can be stubborn and sometimes we need a bucket of ice water poured over our heads.

The only questions that really matter are the ones you ask yourself.

— Ursula Le Guin — Tweet this quote.

Why can’t I write a bestseller?

It’s a stupid question. Seriously, — never, ever, ask it.

You haven’t written a bestseller because you’re asking yourself the wrong question. As a matter of fact, it is the one question that will absolutely ruin any chance you might have of writing anything that will matter to you.

Why? Because it’s not really a question.

It’s a statement of fact: “I can’t write a bestseller.”

If you’re asking why you can’t do something, then the question holds incredible power over you. It will hold that power until you stop asking it and replace it with a better question or an affirmation.

How about asking yourself: “Who says I can’t write a bestseller?”

No one. Write your best work and see what happens.

Ask questions that work for you, and not against you.

When we ask constructive questions we enable our minds to seek out answers that empower us to flourish.

The ability to ask the right question is more than half the battle of finding the answer.

— Thomas J. Watson — Tweet this quote. 

Do I suck?

This is the stupidest question of all. Of course, not! No one, and I mean, no one, and especially not you, sucks.

When you ask yourself if you suck, then your mind focuses on just how much you suck. Your mind automatically assumes you must suck, otherwise why would you ask?

Imagine if someone told you that you are worthless. How would that make you feel?

Now imagine if someone told you that You Rock!

Big difference. Right? Yep. You Rock!

Questions we ask ourselves are not always questions.

Most of the time they are affirmations, and we must become aware of what we are stating about ourselves because we respond accordingly.

Instead of asking “Will I ever finish my book?” which is basically you telling yourself you will never finish your book, ask: “When will I finish my book so I can begin my next one?”

The alternative question presents a different dynamic, which assumes you are going to finish and write another. Answer the question deliberately and give yourself a timeline.

It’s doubt asking the stupid questions, not you!

The key is to realize when you are asking yourself a stupid question, and also realize that it is doubt asking, not you. Purposely stop whatever you are doing (unless you are driving or working with heavy machinery) and rephrase the question to be more constructive and empowering.

Am I creative?

Wrong question. Sometimes it is best to just go ahead and replace the question with an affirmation.

Tweet the affirmation you identify with:

I am a writer.  Tweet

I am an artist.  Tweet

I am creative.  Tweet

My work matters.  Tweet

I am having an impact.  Tweet

I am magical. Go ahead and tweet it, because it is true!

A better question:

How can I improve as an artist?

This question indicates you are an artist, and every artist wants to improve.

The answers are: create more, take lessons, join a tribe, and you will improve.

All of the answers to a constructive question are beneficial.

How do you know which questions are wrong and which are right? 

You already know.

If a question leaves you feeling doubtful about yourself and your abilities, then it is the wrong question.

If a question empowers you and motivates you – then it’s the right question.

There is magic in asking the right questions.

With the right questions you’ll find you have less doubt, less fear, and you’ll create work that matters to you.

Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.

— Anthony Robbins — Tweet this quote.

Here’s an assignment I’d like to challenge you with in the comments: 

Consider questions you’ve asked yourself that have negatively impacted you and write at least 3 of them in the comments and replace with better questions, or turn them into affirmations, or both. If you’d rather not post them in the comments, that’s okay, but consider doing it just for yourself.

Here’s one of mine:

“Why me?”

This is one of the most self-defeating questions of all time. It assumes the challenge you’re going through is too much for you, or you’re not good enough, skilled enough, or talented enough.

The truth is, we all go through setbacks and challenges. You are more than able to overcome them, turn them around and create work that matters.

Challenges help us grow and stretch beyond where we currently are. Without challenges we’d never strive beyond the limits we’ve subconsciously set for ourselves.

You are good enough.

I replaced Why me?” with “Why not me?” and I affirm “I am well able.”

Your turn in the comments…

This is a post in a series of articles about achieving creative flow. Creative flow is when the work you do is effortless and natural, it just flows from you and time passes without notice. Some call it hyper-focusing or becoming absorbed. The problem with achieving creative flow is that we often block ourselves from achieving it without realizing we are blocking ourselves. This series is about letting go and allowing yourself to flow by removing possible blocks that could be preventing you from your best work.

About Bryan Hutchinson

I'm a positive writer and when that doesn't work, I eat chocolate. I help fellow writers overcome doubt and thrive! In my free time, I love visiting castles with my wife, Joan. Join me on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • themagicviolinist

    Great, inspirational post. 🙂 I tend to hear those sorts of questions phrased as comments from my inner editor. That’s when I borrow the mallet from Bugs Bunny and go to town.

  • 1) What makes you think you have something to say, when you’re still struggling yourself?

    I have something of value to offerBECAUSE I am still learning myself.

    2) Who would want to read anything you write?

    Who wouldn’t want to read what I write?

    3) What if you never make big money at writing?

    Jesus didn’t make money with his writing either. But that didn’t stop him from sharing.

    • zinnia

      Yup…these are my three as well! I love your rephrase on the third question. I would add to the second one, “God will lead the right people to what I write at the correct time.”

    • Excellent, Anne!

      However, perhaps consider the third just a bit and the reason is because it seems to validate you’ll never make big money. I agree that Jesus didn’t make money with his writing and that didn’t stop him. But this answer seems to indicate you won’t either. So perhaps consider:

      “I write to share my message. Whatever financial pay off comes from it is in God’s hands.”

      This way you validate why you are writing, and at the same time you’re not stuck on if you’ll make big money or that you’re not going to make big money. Take money out of the equation by putting it in God’s hands. – Well, for me personally, I kind of like putting the parts out of my control in God’s hands. It’s freeing. But that’s me. 🙂

  • Brenda Leyland @ Just Write

    You hit the nail on that head…. thanks SO much, Bryan, for sharing on this. I have been learning over the years to pay attention to messages I hear whether it affirms or encourages or lifts me up, or whether it pulls me down, makes me feel useless or ‘pooped’ on. Whether it’s light or darkness.

    But I didn’t really taken that to the inner critics and editors who ask questions like that who do you think you are, who wants to listen to you when it comes to my writing.

    Hahaha… another weapon in the armour kit to pull out when needed. And that mallet from Bugs Bunny, oh yes, that’s another good one!

    Anne, I echo the questions you’ve indicated. I’ve heard them enough times in my life.

    • Right, Brenda. We are armed and ready for the external critics most of the time, and yet, we all too often allow our internal critic to say whatever he or she wants to say. By listening and realizing what’s being said we can stop and rephrase, but more importantly not fall for the negative, critical messages that are usually born from frustration, fear and doubt.

  • I tweeted my affirmation (https://twitter.com/bluesnowkat/status/376877860134199299)

    And here are my three questions/statements:

    1) Why would anyone want to read what I write? -> Why wouldn’t anyone want to read what I write? I enjoy writing, I write well, and people have told me they enjoy what they have read so far.

    2) Why did I ever think I could be a writer? I.Am.A.Writer. I am awesome and creative and have something to say.

    3) Why did I ever think I can win (finish) NaNoWriMo? -> I CAN win (finish) NaNoWriMo and I WILL!

    • Great ones, Lynn! “You are awesome and creative and have something to say!” Love that.

  • Ann Marie Thomas

    I had some counselling years ago, when my kids were small, about Self-Defeating Behaviours. They are the messages you tell yourself that become self-fulfilling prophecies. The big one for me at that time was “I can’t cope.” We discovered that I actually DID cope until I said those words. They gave me permission to go to pieces. The same is true of writing. You’ll do fine as long as you avoid saying you can’t. Keep on keeping on!

  • Catherine Lyon

    I have asked many of those same questions my self. I did enter your “Am I A Writer” contest, and as I wrote my submission, I asked myself,….WHY did I write a book about myself, and what I’d been through in my life that would be interesting for others to read? I think good or bad, we ALL have a story to share. Mine just happen to be about Addiction, Childhood Trauma, Family secrets destroyed our family, my Mental health illness Challenges, and Recovery.

    Since the book came out this past Nov, I have grown SO much in my Recovery in helping others. It has helped me stay Honest & Accountable in recovery. I shared the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly side of Addicted Gambling addiction. It is the fastest growing addiction now, and it is NOW taking young college age adults. So I write, blog, and Share HOPE to others, and to know they are not alone. That’s is really why I write 🙂 Catherine Lyon

    • Thanks for entering the contest, Catherine. I’ll be announcing the winners this coming Sunday. It’s good to know why you write, because that will provide you with endless enthusiasm. I am happy to hear you continue to grow and build your inner strength!

  • LadyJevonnahEllison

    So inspiring! I was able to share with our women’s Bible Study group on the topic, “Why not you?” Thank you!

  • thefemmeaddon

    Thank you for this article!
    Oh yes, all this questioning that for me leads to self-sabotage in my projects and work.
    What a wonderful article and quotes- I will print some out and hang them on my wall- to not forget about them. Especially the asking stupid questions. lol 🙂

    You also inspired me for another post in my blog and I happily linked to your article 🙂
    My free-minded answers ( I forgot the questions…):
    I enjoy doing it. I want to do it. I love to do it.
    And if anyone likes what I do thats fine and great- but no a must for me doing what I enjoy!


  • Jessica

    This is great! What a good idea.

    The question I ask myself the most is, what if my work isn’t as good as I think it is? What if I’m delusional? What if I’m wasting my time on something I actually suck at? All self defeating, I know. But insidious too. So insidious.

  • ann varghese

    I loved the article . I identified with the question you asked “When will I finish my
    book so I can begin my next one?” – its one of my positive questions

    My questions :
    1. what if it fails ? now changed to -> how do I want to celebrate after I succeed?
    2. what will he/she say? now changed to -> What is my purpose of pursuing this idea?
    3. what do they think of me? now changed to – > How can I make myself feel special