Saturday, 30 November 2013

Everyone is an expert - except me

It always amazes me how much other people know.

And these people must know a lot, because they're always making sure everyone else knows about it. They're always talking about how they do this or they do that, or (more often) they've done this or done that already. And really well, to boot.

Not only are they telling everyone else what they've done, but they're also giving incredibly useful advice on what everyone else should be doing. They're busy writing up top ten lists of all the things that people need to do, or all the ways other people have already stuffed things up.

I wish I could be like these people. I'm in awe of these people. They know so much, and they're so willing to share this knowledge around. Unfortunately, there's no way I could possibly do this, because I'm not really an expert on anything. 

I suppose I could try. I could try to write out a top ten list about...something or other. But who would pay attention? Who would possibly want to follow my list of directions, especially as I'd pretty much be making them up as I went along? There just doesn't seem to be any point at all.

It's hard work being inexpert in a world of experts. When people know so much, and are so keen to let you know about it, you barely want to open your mouth or put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). You're always way too afraid to reveal your ignorance, and your complete lack of expertise about anything much.

I suppose I could say that I'm an expert in lack of expertise. I could write out a top ten list of how not to be an expert. But nobody would want to read that, would they? 


  1. It’s all about perception. I had a girlfriend once who, like me (although in a different school), was a member of the debating team. Whereas I used to sit at home with my encyclopaedias checking my facts—no Internet then—she would simply make stuff up. And she got away with it! Why? Because, she told me, as long as you present any piece of information with sufficient authority then no one will question you. Second example: I was once in the company of an old couple and (Christ knows how) I got round to telling them what the four Greek words for love were to which the wife said, “Oh, he knows Greek!” Er, no, I knew four words of Greek, maybe ten—tops, but people always assume that you’re dipping into a deep well of knowledge rather than throwing everything you know out there and praying no one asks you to elaborate. You’ve read my blogs—I certainly hope you’ve read them—and you’ll see that I come across as … well, just downright clever much of the time. I am clever which is how I can pull it off but I’m nowhere near as clever as I make myself sound. Not that I aim to come across as a know-it-all but the great thing about self-deprecation (which I do all the time) is that no one really believes you. They think its false modesty. This doesn’t mean that I don’t research my posts thoroughly—I’m not beyond spending a whole week on a single post—but everything I know goes in that post and within a week or two I’ve forgotten most of what I’ve said. I’ve just uploaded the second in a two-part post on privacy and I am not joking when I say I can remember nothing, zilch, bugger all of what’s in those two articles. But every week I sit down and start to research something new because my readers have come to expect a well-written, well-researched article or book review and that’s what they get. They in turn are supposed to think, Oh this looks like a great writer; must immediately order his entire back catalogue but that’s where the plan falls to pieces I’m afraid.

    You may not be an expert but that doesn’t mean you’re inexperienced. People are desperately interested in the experiences of others. It’s one of the reasons why we read books. So share them. That’s what unique about you. Most lists don’t vary much but life experiences do and opinions do. You could write a whole post about how hard it is to punctuate a sentence. There’s not one of us out there who hasn’t looked at something they’ve written and wondered if all the dots, dashes and squiggles are in the right places. You don’t have to have an answer. But it’s good to share.

    This list of things writers can blog about might help.

    1. Hi Jim. Thanks for the tips. I like the idea about the dots in the sentences - I might take it up.