About the Post

Author Information

Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

From Rhetorical to Real

The Saboteur Loves Stopper Questions

One of the ways our Saboteur stops us is to use rhetorical questions as barriers. Questions like:

  • Who do you think you are?
  • Who do I think I am to write _______?
  • Why on earth would anyone want to read what I write?
  • What makes me even think I can write _______?
  • How could I even begin?

Any of these sound familiar? Take a few minutes to record what other rhetorical questions your Saboteur uses to keep you safe. You know, safe from embarrassing yourself or looking stupid or getting rejected. Safe from making mistakes and all the learning and growing that come from mistakes (read my post on the benefit of failing). Safe from following your dream, giving yourself a shot, and growing as a writer.

I’m always looking for information on the Saboteur – the more I know, the better prepared I am to face my Saboteur and to help students, clients and readers face theirs. So please post a comment or send me an email listing the rhetorical questions that get in the way of your writing.

Disarming the Saboteur

Questions are powerful. When I’m at my best as a coach, I ask questions that open hidden doors and expand my clients’ thinking. And like any powerful tool, a question in the hands of the Saboteur is a dangerous weapon. It is our never-ending job to disarm the Saboteur. Start by taking the rhetorical, “you idiot” tone out of these questions. Ask them as genuine questions.

“Who do I think I am?” is an intriguing existential question when you really think about it. Change “How could I even begin?” to “How could I begin?” and you open your mind to possibilities.

Freewrite responses to any of the questions the Saboteur has thrown in your way and you’ll find a way around the Saboteur.

Reading how other writers get past the Saboteur can be inspirational and freeing. So I invite you to share (in a comment or email) what you discover when you turn rhetorical questions into real questions.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

6 Comments on “From Rhetorical to Real”

  1. bakaug@gmail.com September 1, 2014 at 8:34 pm #

    I always used to think that, while, the first word meant a person who blogs, the second word stood for a blog hosting site! Now, I am utterly confused because my uncle tells me, that both of them are the same hosting site for those who blog with Google using blogger/blogspot! Can somebody with authentic knowledge please help me resolve my doubt? Please take my question seriously and “I earnestly request” Y!A members to respond with discreet academic answers, following community guidelines..


  2. Karin August 20, 2014 at 1:50 am #

    I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Very well written!


  3. Eden Cross November 12, 2010 at 11:30 pm #

    I’m going to say: How much do I want to begin? and then, How do I want to begin? Because, maybe that Saboteur-talk means that I really want an “out”, and here’s the perfect reason to opt out of doing something that either I don’t want to do deep down…or I’m afraid to try! This has been very helpful to me – as I’m facing a lecture that I need and want to write — and I was truly looking at it like “How can I possibly write this” as if my critical parent is putting me down. Now, you’ve helped empower me, and I’m stepping up to the typewriter right after I send this off.


    • rosannebane November 19, 2010 at 11:21 pm #

      Thanks Eden! It’s great to hear that a post has inspired someone to write right away. I hope the lecture went well!



  1. Journaling Your Way Out of Writer’s Block Part 2 | The Bane of Your Resistance - March 26, 2013

    […] questions that expand your perspective. Rhetorical questions rarely help. Questions that assume the negative don’t help […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: