It’s OK to Ask for Help

July 1st, 2010

Though David Morrell’s talk last weekend at Seton Hill University did not specifically address this topic, he did touch on it, and I suppose recent events made me latch on. In his introductory remarks, he mentioned research and how you should strive to get details right (I agree!), so you should ask people for help. If you’re writing about cops, find a cop and ask questions. Need to know how an emergency room works? Go down to your local one. Most people, he said, will be willing to help out especially since they are curious about the process of writing.

I have to admit that I usually try to find answers to those types of questions myself. I love book research! But you do miss the authenticity of experience with that method. And what do you have to lose by asking?

As I hinted earlier, I’ve had some experience asking for help of late. This past weekend at Seton Hill, I had some car trouble thanks to a battery that decided it was on its last legs while I was a couple hundred miles from home. By the time I left early Sunday morning, I had been forced to ask for three jumps, including twice from the same campus security officer.

I felt like an idiot asking for help the second time, but I guess that’s life.

Whether it is because I am naturally an introvert, and perhaps even edging into shy in some situations, I do have difficulty asking for help. I’d rather not draw that kind of notice, and one of my driving impulses is to avoid inconveniencing others. I’m nearly obsessive about being on time because I’d hate to make others wait, and when it comes to decision-making time, I tend to consider first how my decisions will affect others. This applies to major issues all the way down to small things like how closely to the curb I should park my car.

I suppose that though I do worry about my so-called “carbon footprint,” what I most worry about is my “inconvenience footprint” (which plays into my environmental beliefs since I would rather not inconvenience the generations to come, not to mention the planet that has already given us so much).

And yet, I attempt to be a helpful person, not turning people down unless I really cannot help (I attempt to deflect the “Can you critique my 300-page novel for free?” questions as gently as I can–mostly it’s because people have no concept of just how much work that is). So why shouldn’t I allow myself to reach out and ask for help once in a while? I’ve been slowly going through my contact list, asking people to help promote the campaign for Fantastical Visions V, so I’ve been getting a bit more comfortable with the idea, especially since everyone has been so gracious about it, helping out in various ways.

So, maybe next January I’ll try to get up to Seton Hill a day or so early, look up my campus security officer friend, and ask if I can shadow him for a day to learn about the job for a supernatural thriller set on a college campus that I’ve been meaning to write.

I’ll swear to him that my car is in working order.