If you don’t know and it’s unclear, don’t guess because you’ll feel stupid asking. Better to look kind of dumb by asking then end up looking like a total moron for not asking. But is that really dumb to ask? I’m thinking not. It’s pretty smart actually—only it took me some time to figure this out.
I wondered about this after I entered a writing competition. In the directions it told you to enter your text in the little box, but that little box didn’t recognize paragraphs so in order to show where your paragraphs were, you entered this little code. They had parentheses around the code “xxx” and I wondered whether the parentheses were part of the code or if it was just to show the code. Also in the directions it said if you had any questions, just ask and they gave an email address.
I wanted to ask, “Are the parentheses part of the code?” But a crazy little monster in my head said, oh you’ll look stupid and they’ll laugh and eliminate you from the contest right off the bat. So I didn’t ask, didn’t put the parentheses with the code and after I hit enter, it showed my little code after each paragraph. I saw others that looked like this too, but I saw one that didn’t have any code and had paragraph breaks. I chewed myself up and spit myself out for being an idiot.
At a St. Louis Writers Guild workshop I attended, three publishers spoke and one thing was crystal clear from all three – follow a company’s guidelines. Your piece will be immediately tossed out if you don’t do what they ask. They want to work with someone who can follow instructions.
I can’t help but wonder whether I was eliminated in the contest for not following instructions.
I then had a dream that showed me what happens when I take it upon myself to do something rather than follow instructions—or by not asking if I’m not sure.
Dream: I was to read my story from the paper. I got nervous thinking it wasn’t good enough and started to add-lib. Part way through, the words disappeared. I became tongue tied and couldn’t figure out where I was at or what to read. Someone in the audience boo’d me and was annoyed. I held the paper up and said to him, “It really is a good story.” But the paper ended up being a knitted piece of material. You couldn’t read thing.
When I woke up I realized I will ASK, no matter how silly it may seem to me. I even bought three big letters to spell A S K that hang on the wall of my writing room.