I’m not a very good writer.

It sucks to admit. But it’s true.

Good stories make a good writer. Great writers can take a good story and tell it in an amazing way, weaving together words and sentences, pushing beyond the limits of what language was thought capable of. Bad writers try to overcome a lousy story with eloquent writing. It doesn’t work.

Everything begins with the story.

Why am I a bad writer? Because I don’t ask enough questions.

Stories are everywhere, waiting to be told. People have stories that they are willing to share, if only someone is willing to listen.

Larry moved from Austin, Texas and opened a barbecue shop. Pretty standard. His barbecue shop is in Buenos Aires. Now that is a story.

I thought he looked busy running the restaurant. So I didn’t ask any questions. Silently, I ate my brisket, drank my beer, and left, wondering about the denim jacket above the bar signed by Elton John. Another story left untold.

In Ollayantaytambo, there is a chocolate museum. Not a museum made out of chocolate–that would be a story–but a small building dedicated to the history of chocolate-making in Peru. It also has a shop, and a cafe.

I thought the waitress was an American, from her appearance and her accented Spanish. I don’t know; I didn’t ask. Silently, I ate my brownie with vanilla ice cream, drank my coffee, and left, wondering how she ended up here. One more opportunity missed.

This blog has become the tale of my three month adventure in South America. And that’s all well and good. I’ve gained some followers, so I’m probably doing something right.

What happens next?

In a little more than a week, I board a flight back to the United States. Home. I imagine I’ll settle back into the usual daily routine–eat, sleep, work.

I don’t expect I’ll ever become a great writer. That will take years of practice. Not that I don’t have enough time; I’m only 30. Accepting that I may not become a great writer–and being okay with it–is the only way I can push myself to keep going.

I want to keep writing. It’s an outlet for the thoughts bouncing around in my head. But the beast demands to be fed good stories. I don’t want to live my life for the next story. Being boring is fine. If I don’t find my own story compelling, I’ll need to find other ones to tell. The best way to do that is by asking questions.

Stupidity comes from not asking questions. Questions unasked are answers unheard. And missed opportunities to learn.

I know enough to know I don’t have all the answers. But someone else might have at least one answer that I don’t. If I ask the right question, it’s like unlocking a door to another universe. Sharing stories is how humans evolved.

I’ll get better with practice.


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