I don’t know about you, but I often have trouble asking for help.

It’s not that I don’t want help and it’s not that I don’t need help. It’s that I don’t want to be a problem. Or that I don’t have time to explain what I want. Or that I feel like it’s something I “should” know (even if I don’t), and therefore asking for that particular help means I feel less than.

Should is one of the worst and most shameful words in the English language, isn’t it?

I know I’m not alone in this discomfort of help. In fact, if I were to interview all my friends, I would bet that “I need help” will probably be one of the least frequent phrases on their lips.

Help with writing life
The interesting thing about writing as a career is that it is often a solo profession, where it is very difficult to succeed without help. We need author friends and critical partners, writing teachers, editors, proofreaders, beta readers, cover designers, street teams and, in some matters, agents and editors.

To do everything we need to succeed as a self-entrepreneur, we need help. Period. And what I noticed is that most of us don’t like to ask. Even worse, many of us do not even realize that we can ask.

I will start the ball with some concrete examples:

Find Other People Like You
In the fall of 2000 I joined my local love writing department. I was a baby writer who had no idea there were other people like me in the driving range. It had literally never occurred to me to find other writers, and I had no idea that whole chapters of writing existed.

A financial analyst, who was also my diving partner, read some category novels and decided that ” She could make a lot of money by writing small short books that went to thousands of people by mail every month.”

How hard it can be, she said.

So she drew me to the local scripture chapter where she attends 3-4 sessions and I have been attending for decades. I don’t really write romance, but this chapter is still the friendliest writing house I’ve found.

New Writers Don’t Know What They Don’t Know
I went meeting after meeting and (very slowly) I began to understand how many things written I did not know.

I learned how hard professional writers work and that I better not quit my job. I became friends with real published authors and admired them at every monthly meeting, without a clue about how to switch from a baby writer to a published writer.

I did not know that I could ask you how to shorten the trip, since I did not want to bother these busy professional authors.

Really…just ask!
About four years after I attended my first major writing conference where, Lord, help me, I signed up to tell a story. On day 1, two of my friends who were editors sat at a table in the conference lobby bar and asked me what I was throwing. I gave them the title and the number of words in my book. And that was it.

They exchanged a glance across the table, which I can now interpret as “we’d better save this poor little baby peanut writer.” “And they absolutely saved me this week.

They taught me to pitch in the lobby of the hotel and sent me to my room to train. Then they both took an hour off their own schedules to sit in the throwing line with me and hold my cold and sweaty hands. I came, like all of us, and after that night, one of them asked me why I had not spoken, and asked the most experienced authors for comments before that.

My answer makes me sad today: I didn’t know it was right to ask you questions.

Little did I know that almost all my friends published authors wanted to die to help new authors like me succeed. They were just waiting to be asked.

It was a revelation.

Think about how much faster I could have learned if I had asked for the help that was available to me.

Take it with you afterwards
If you have an established friendship with other writers, be sure to ask them questions.
Experienced writers want to repay all the help they received when they were writer babies.
As long as you are respectful about it, your request for advice will make these experienced writers feel like rock stars.

Daily Help Is Also Difficult
Most people, especially Americans, are hardwired to want to do things themselves. Even as toddlers, we are independent of the mind and shout at our parents that “I can do it myself.”

Many of us don’t learn early enough that bending over doesn’t have to weaken you.

Here is the story of an experience I had with a friend who hates asking for help. In fact, hate is probably not a strong word. She hates asking for help. Viscerally despises him. She’s one of the most helpful people you’ll meet-especially for other writers-but she literally can’t ask for help.

Many years ago we were at a writing event in a local hotel, shortly after she had surgery on her foot. She went home on a scooter, but she needed a wheelchair for the event. I knew she hated that, and I also know how exhausting it is to sit down and push a non-motorized wheelchair.

I was her chauffeur to and from the hotel and I was happy to push her chair that day because it allowed me to spend more time with her.

Full Disclosure


I have the gene of help, and I am the daughter of a nurse. I literally grew up in and around hospitals watching my mother helping people. When someone needs help, especially someone I love, I automatically rush forward. I don’t even register that I do.

For someone who hates asking for help, I’m almost certain that my help gene can feel intrusive. This friend in a wheelchair was fine while we were surrounded by people and she was busy. But when we went to the parking lot, she pulled out her independence card.

Final considerations
The more I read about the psychology of help, the more I realize that one of the obstacles to asking for help is the fear of rejection. We believe that someone will say no, although it is very likely that he will say yes if the request is clear and concise.

An interesting addendum to this point is mentioned in this article by the Verge:

“Research shows that people who have rejected you in the past are actually more likely to help you than others. [Author Quote] if I reject them and they offer me another opportunity to help if I can, I jump on it. I want to feel better.”

In addition, most of us are much more likely to seek help for others than for ourselves. I know it’s me. It’s easier to ask when it is for someone else.

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