Leading me to the answer

When I used to get stuck while writing, I would ask one of my friends for advice. This was an exercise in futility. I deliberately avoided telling him much about my story because I wanted his fresh opinion when it was all done, so he ended up trying to give me advice based on limited information.

But you know what? Nine times out of ten I got the answer I needed. It just usually didn’t come from him.

I find that the act of walking someone through your problem usually has the effect of making the answer obvious to you. Sometimes it’s a question they ask or an observation they make, but usually it’s in the course of laying it all out that the answer will spring into your mind.

There’s an element of learning by teaching in this. If you can explain the problem in such detail that someone unfamiliar with it can understand the situation, you’ll understand it even better yourself. It also forces you to go over all the little details you normally gloss over, and it’s in those that the answer usually lies.

The takeaway is that having people you can talk to when you hit a snag is vital. Not because they’ll give you the answer, but because they’re the catalyst that will allow you to lead yourself to it. Though sometimes they’ll just hand you the answer too, which is nice.

2 thoughts on “Leading me to the answer

  1. In programming, it’s called the ‘confessional’ method of debugging. If you’re stuck on a problem you explain it to a colleague, your significant other…a wall…, and before you’re done, you know the solution.

    • Yeah, after I posted this a reader messaged me and said it was called rubber duck debugging. I am not seriously considering getting a rubber duck, or maybe stealing one of my nieces’ old stuffed animals to talk to. I’m sure they won’t mind.

Comments are closed.