Micro Lesson: The Art of the Question with Jake Uitti

Posted Thu, 1/03/2019 - 9:16am by  |  Category: , , , ,

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re at your computer or on your cell phone and you’re scrolling through what might be of interest as you wait for a bus to arrive or a delivery person to bring you some noodles.

Indeed, this blog post is just one piece of information in the sea of it all around us. But just because information abounds, doesn’t mean we’ve asked for it, or asked for it clearly, which raises the question: Do we know how to ask good questions?

If we were to meet one of our heroes, what might we ask them? Take for example the Seattle-based Americana singer and recent Grammy nominee, Brandi Carlile. She released her latest record, By the Way, I Forgive You, in 2018. Maybe you love this album, and maybe you’d like to ask her about it. If you got the chance to talk with her, what would you ask? Here are three options:

Where did you come up with the album title?

or, better…

What does that album title mean to you?

or, better yet…

What does the idea of forgiveness mean to you?

In all three examples, we’re sourcing from the same bit of information—the record’s title—to find out about the artist. But with a bit more thought, we can get a more insightful answer, perhaps one with more emotion embedded in the language, which may in turn offer some insight into our own creative lives. A question is like a window into someone’s home. The cleaner the pane, the better the view.

So, let’s get clear and let’s get specific. In The Art of the Question, we will work on question construction to get the most out of an interview subject for a magazine feature, online Q&A, or for your fictional novel. We will read interviews, interview one another, write and refine questions and listen to and watch some of the world’s best question askers do their thing. The potential for information is everywhere, but honing the questions we ask is a way to filter out what’s essential and what’s not.

Jake Uitti is a Seattle-based writer whose work has appeared in The Seattle Times, Washington Post, Alaska Beyond Magazine, and many others. His love of interviews is only surpassed by his love of noodles.