When Do You Become An Expert?

This is a pertinent question to me because I just submitted an application to present at a writing workshop.  Something I wondered if I was qualified to do the whole time I was completing the application.  (Ah, ego.)

Now, on one hand I could argue that I have no business presenting at a writing workshop.  The only publication I’ve seen so far is because I chose to publish my own work.  And while I’ve had some nice results here or there, I’ve by no means knocked it out of the park.

On the other hand, I’ve learned a ton of information so far on my writing journey.  Information that I think I could share with writers at an earlier stage of the process than me to help them get a leg up.  (I find myself almost daily seeing a question on a writing forum and thinking, “How do you not know that?” so maybe that’s a good indicator that I have some level of knowledge beyond the basic.)

And sometimes those that make the best coaches aren’t the best players, right?

Now.  I have been an expert before.  I’ve been selected by an organization and given a plaque to hang on the wall that said I was a national expert in my area of expertise.

Was I?

Yeah, sure.

If by expert you mean I knew more than 90% of the people I was working with and knew who to call to find any answer I couldn’t answer myself.

But there’s always an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach when someone holds me out as an authority on a subject.  Because you can never know it all.  In that field where I was a national expert, the rules were in constant flux.  Not just new rules getting passed, but how the regulators chose to handle those rules.  The answer on Monday might not be the answer on Tuesday.

I knew enough to say, “The answer today is x, but if that situation over there continues the way it’s going the answer may well be y.”

And I guess maybe that level of familiarity with the subject meant I was an expert.  I could see the nuance.

I think sometimes people get designated experts just because they’re loud.  They’re willing to state an unequivocal opinion and shout down anyone who dares to contradict them.  (I will say in my personal experience that anyone who talks in absolutes generally makes me very, very uneasy.  The world is so rarely black and white.)

Or they just step up and call themselves an expert and no one else knows better so they accept it at face value and then lo and behold the person becomes an expert.  They stay one step ahead of everyone else and that’s really all you need for people to believe you’re an expert at something.  Don’t get caught out and don’t run into someone who truly is an expert.

Yikes.  I’m cynical aren’t I?  But it is an interesting question at a more basic level.

When are you ready?

When are you ready to submit your work?  Or ready for that promotion?

When is it time to take the next step?

You can’t wait for others to tell you.  At some point you just have to try.

And you either find out you’re ready or you don’t…

But if you never step up, you’re never going to be ready.

So, I may not get accepted as a presenter.  Or I may.  But at least I raised my hand and gave it a go.


About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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