January 16, 2010

Just ask

One lesson I have learned is that many well-known people are more accessible than you think. Celebrities will probably not take your calls, but many authors, academics, and moderately influential people are willing to answer an e-mail (or even the phone).

When I was in high school, I worked on a group project where we were supposed to present a short story to the class. We couldn't decide how to interpret it. I got the idea to call the author. I found her phone number on the internet and basically said, "I read your story and I was wondering if I could ask you some questions about it." We talked for a while, and I recorded the interview. We did our group presentation without mentioning it, and then at the end I said, "Now we would like to play a few clips from my interview with the author." Everyone (especially our teacher) was shocked.

Now, when I'm in a situation where information isn't available and we're stuck, I am usually the one who says, "Why don't we call him and ask?" It's amazing how people don't think this is an option. But often it's successful -- and it never hurts to try.

My dissertation depends on getting access to a number of people who are fairly important -- but I like this project because it's a challenge, and because I feel confident that I can get these people to talk to me. It won't always be easy, but I actually think it will be easier than some people think. If you express genuine interest, and you ask a good (informed) question, you will often get some type of answer.


  • Haha, just one of the reasons why you're awesome. That would never cross my mind. Even if it did, I would be too terrified to follow through.

    By Blogger WillyZ, at 1/16/10, 7:47 PM  

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