Judy Collins explained the story of the song to Mojo magazine.
"When Leonard (Cohen) asked me why I didn't write songs, I kind of didn't have a clue. I didn't know how you even started writing a song. So I called Bruce Langhorne, who played guitar and tambourine on Carolyn Hester records and Bob Dylan records and was living up in White Plains (north of the Bronx) and I said, 'Can I come and see you?' I had all these notebooks of depression and darkness and desperation, really random, nothing finished. I'd been writing my dreams down for years because I'd been in therapy already, three years I guess.
He read my dreary little notebook and said, 'OK, you're going to go home and you're going to write five songs about a relationship, the beginning, the middle and so on end-to-end.' I said, 'Oh good, that's simple.' 'Since You've Asked' was the first. It took me about 40 minutes."