On Being an Expert

 

Header image from the public domain; source: Andrea Rauch

Today’s post is from Chris in Owatonna

Most of us go through life developing talents, skills, and interests that add to our enjoyment of life or pay our expenses. Some are happy doing relatively simple jobs, happy with their high school diploma or G.E.D., happy to be in the middle of the bell curve of expertise.

But some of us strive to become an expert at one thing: a field of study in college or beyond, a sport, a career, a hobby, a craft, an artistic discipline. Some earn a degree, or a license, or a certificate, or validation from adoring fans if they become rock stars or award-winning actors or world-class athletes.

The other group of strivers usually become experts by default. Often it’s simply for the love of the subject.  Who doesn’t know someone who’s a walking encyclopedia on a certain subject, like a woodworker who can build furniture as good as the masters of centuries past? Or the good cook who tried new recipes, developed new ideas, found a passion for feeding people and then opened their own restaurant without even knowing there is such an institution as the Culinary Institute of America?

Intentional or not, I seem to have earned my expert stripe in an area I hadn’t thought possible until about six years ago–writing fiction.

Yep. Fiction. A novel in fact.

“Big deal,” you say.

And you’re right. There are millions of people in the world who have written a complete book but aren’t entitled to call themselves experts.

“Why?” I hear you ask.

Because they haven’t published the book.

For better or worse, I took that step and published my novel! For people to actually purchase and read. I still shake my head in wonderment as to how and why I came to this point in my life.

I didn’t earn an MFA or Literature degree. I didn’t take master class after master class and earn validation from other experts (most far with far more expertise than I’ll ever have).  I didn’t even answer an ad in the back of a tabloid and get an online degree from “How ta Write Good University.” Nevertheless, I’ve earned the right to  pretend to be an expert in the field of fiction writing because I crossed the line from talking about it and dreaming about it to doing it.

My novel Castle Danger is now available in print for order through your favorite local bookstore ( my preferred  way to purchase books), Booklocker.com, the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites, or the trunk of my car. And I am available for book clubs, bar mitzvahs, coffee klatches, neighborhood block parties, or hardware store grand openings. 🙂

Now that I’ve written a novel I suppose I’m qualified to teach classes or give interviews  on “how to write a novel.” Strangers may regard me with a modicum of admiration or envy or jealousy or dubiousness (THAT guy wrote a novel?? Sheesh!) But I don’t feel any more an expert on writing than I did before I decided to put the darn thing out into the world for public consumption. I wonder if other experts with real degrees, validation, or money in the bank earned from their expert endeavors feel like a true expert. And can anyone ever know everything there is to know about a subject or field of study? I doubt it.

So my question for Babooners is: In what subject, job skill, artistic or athletic endeavor, or hidden talent have you become a de facto expert? Meaning no official recognition by governing bodies, licensing boards, piles of money in a Swiss bank account, or public acclaim and accolades?

 

83 thoughts on “On Being an Expert”

  1. I am an expert at heat welding seams in vinyl, linoleum and rubber flooring. I’ve been called upon to finish the seaming on projects from New York City to San Francisco. One company had me go to Madrid, Spain for a month of work. Talent on loan from some deity, I am.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. And as it just so happens, I am welding seams at a securities firm in Covington, Kentucky. It turns out, I am among the few welders who is not a convicted felon or drug user. Passing the background checks was easily done.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Congratulations, Chris! You’re right, it’s not many people take that final step and get their book out there.

    I know I’m being heretical, but from what I’ve observed (as one possessing a BA in Creative Writing and half an MFA), getting an MFA doesn’t teach you to write well, it teaches you how to write like someone with an MFA, and there’s a universe of difference between the two. The business of education and education (or rather, learning) itself have less and less to do with one another, and there’s a rather sinister flattening of thought and creativity underway as the first overshadows the latter.

    Sorry to hijack the thread. Please, carry on…

    Liked by 8 people

    1. I taught writing in high school quite successfully for many years to the college bound, which had little to do with teaching writing but only on how to write in college and survive in college.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Well said, Crow Girl,

      I’ve sensed the same thing about MFAs. Like maybe the students write to impress the professor more than to tell a real story or accurately express themselves. I always think over-educated people are too careful, not as willing to open up their souls to the world, too concerned about getting approval from “experts.”

      Chris

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Holy cats, Chris! You are a published novelist!
    Congratulations.

    If I ever finish anything, I will consider myself an expert. I’ll let you all know when that happens.

    In other Trail news, Anna’s cat is back!

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Thank you, MIG. Whatever you choose to become an expert in, just keep plugging away. It took me years to produce my modest little work. Feels good to type “The End” on both the project and the process.

      Chris

      Like

  4. I’m sort of fascinated with the creation of Wikipedia – so few paid employees, such an astounding mass of information, much of it volunteered by someone who knew about some obscure subject. Then there are the youtube videos showing you how to replace a faucet cartridge or tie a scarf or prune a fruit tree. Can’t think of anything I’d qualify as an expert on, but I’m glad somebody knows about these things.

    Congratulations on getting published, Chris – well done!

    Liked by 5 people

  5. If I could be considered an expert at anything, it would be seed saving.
    As a seed saver, I am one of many who are attempting to bring back seed saving as a more common practice among gardeners. I have a hard time convincing gardeners who are not seed savers that they should start doing this. Seed saving is no longer practiced by many gardeners who now buy all of the seeds they plant. Seed saving is not difficult and is a very interesting activity. We shouldn’t be so quick to rely on purchasing things such as seeds that we can produce ourselves.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. In theory, I agree with you, Jim, it’s just that it’s completely unrealistic for me to even consider saving seeds. Heck, I can’t keep track of dug up tubers from one year to the next.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Glad to hear that Jim. We need as much biodiversity in the world as we can get. Homogeneity will be the death of the human race because all it will take is one superbug of the right potency and no one will survive it.

      Chris

      Like

  6. I am an expert at keeping squirrels fat and happy with bird seed, as well as propagating invasive flower species. If it will spread to places I don’t want, I can make it happen with a vengeance. I am also good at growing grass in flower beds but not, alas, in lawns.

    Lately husband and I have realized we were turning into food hoarders, since our freezers (I admit we have more than two freezers) were full to overflowing. We have become experts at “eating out of the freezer” and have reduced our grocery bill by being creative with what we have. Husband gets bored with leftovers and likes to freeze them for a later date. That later date rarely came, and in the past couple of months he has manfully devoured unidentified frozen objects to make more freezer space.

    I am an expert at pie crusts.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. OK, lots to say here.

    First, Chris says his book release is June 2 at 4 pm. at the farmer’s market in Owatonna (am I getting that right, Chris?) Anybody else want go down. We could celebrate and maybe even have dinner together?

    Second. Since all of the Blevins Book Club hang out here, I’d like to recommend that we read Castle Danger for our August gathering. Any thoughts?

    Third. I’m not all that comfortable with the title “expert”, not sure why. However I know a boatload about Henry VIII and Elizabeth the I. I have a great garden but don’t really consider myself an expert, just committed and patient. I’m a good cook, but not chef-quality. And I suppose I should admit to having a pretty good knowledge of the Mormons, especially the FLDS, but I’m blaming part of that on Bill, who keeps recommending books on the topic!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I would hate to be pegged as anything like an expert on LDS, except as it fits as part of the fabric of mid nineteenth century, along with other stabs at building a “perfected” society. I’d like to be an expert on aspects of the nineteenth century someday, if I live that long. It’s a big bucket.
      The trick is not to stand next to any real experts…

      Liked by 4 people

    2. I’m not all that comfortable with the term “expert” either, maybe because I’ve never thought of myself in this way? If I were to publish one of many things I’ve written which I think are pretty good, I still wouldn’t think of myself as an expert. I’d feel accomplished and pleased that I had the fortitude to go through all of the hoops required to get published. I wish I did because on my coffee table sits a 400-page hard cover book chronicling my daily journey through cancer which I strongly believe would help and enlighten other cancer victims. Since I’m a dancer, I entitled it “Dancing with Cancer”.

      Like

    3. Correction, VS. The book release event is not during the farmers market. It’ll be at Perfect Day Cakes in downtown. I haven’t discussed a date for the farmers market event with the bookstore owner yet, just that he’ll help promote it. Sorry if I confused you. But you are all invited to the PDC event on June 2, for sure.

      I would be honored and thrilled if the Blevins Book Club wanted to read my book! I’d me more than happy to drive up and have you fire questions at me (Like, “What were you THINKING???”) 🙂

      Chris

      Liked by 3 people

  8. Congratulations, Chris! That’s quite an accomplishment. I have thought about making books as being akin to making babies. It starts with fun and high hopes. Then it drags on for months and months (many of my books took nine months to write). Toward the end it hurts a lot, but you eventually get your reward.

    I’ve been considered an expert at a few things, mostly by people who didn’t know better. Ultimately, the only area where I would claim expertise is my command of my personal history. That is, I remember my past. You might say everyone remembers his or her past, and that’s what I used to believe. What I’ve learned, though, is that I have a more complete and detailed recollection of my past than is common.

    I’ve learned that this kind of confident, rich recollection is actually rare. I have friends who love to have me tell them what we did together twenty, thirty or forty years ago; using me as a sort of weird tape recorder because they have forgotten what we did together but I have not.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m gonna get in your face here, Steve…. I think you can claim more than that, just based on the books you’ve written. I believe I’ve read them all….

      Like

  9. Expert on nothing. Was a fool to ever assume I was, which I am afraid I did.

    Way to go, Chris. Intrigued by your use of the community in which I lived for 27 years as the title.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. You were a Castle Dangerite, Clyde?? Cool. If I had known that, I would have hired you as a consultant. 😉

      Ever since I saw the road sign on Hwy 61 on my first trip up the Shore as a kid, I’ve loved that name. When the plot and setting began taking shape, it became a natural, almost logical title for the book. I hope it works.

      Chris

      Like

  10. I am so excited for you, Chris. This is such an accomplishment. Salut!

    Having been one of Chris’ Beta readers for this novel, I can tell you, this is one heck of a yarn. I can’t wait to get my hands on the finished product. I think vs’ suggestion of reading Castle Danger for the August Blevins meeting is a good one; I second it.

    I have never been an expert on anything. I’ve enjoyed solving crossword puzzles since I was a child, and still do, so in the span of 65 years or so, I’ve accrued such an obscure collection of mostly useless information that I sometimes surprise myself. If I had my life to do over again, would I pursue a more meaningful, organized method of collecting information? Not sure that I would. I kinda enjoy the randomness of this rag-tag jumble of knowledge. Maybe my attention span is deficient?

    Liked by 1 person

        1. The two are certainly far from mutually exclusive, ljb. Generally, I have an easier time explaining why I don’t know something since it usually correlates to something that is of little or no interest to me, or is seldom used as a crossword puzzle clue. Some of the obscure facts that have somehow embedded themselves in my brain are much more of a mystery to me.

          Like

    1. Thanks again, PJ, for the kind words as well as your contribution to the finished book. Sorry for the duplicate comment about you near the end. I wrote it first to make sure I mentioned you, then began reading the comments.

      Chris

      Like

  11. I threw together a guest blog and tossed it against a wall. It stuck maybe from too much gluten, so I submitted it.

    Like

  12. I am an expert on….
    * living in a messy house
    * (like Renee) growing grass in the flower, herb, and berry beds – but not the lawn
    * letting things like cleaning windows and washing curtains go undone for years
    * dealing with paper clutter

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Seriously, BiR? Sure. But not until after May 3rd (when my final project is due). But I can only help people who really want to get rid of the clutter and organize the little they keep. Also, I only know my own method: a combination of the filing system called Freedom Filer and a book called Paper Flow by MaryAnne Bennie. The two aren’t related, but together, they worked wonders for me.

        Like

        1. Well, I don’t know if I’m cut out to be in business for myself. Plus, I only know the one system that I have and I don’t have enough gumption to claim that My Way Will Transform Your Life. (Although – pay me enough money and I might consider making all sorts of claims.) Any baboon that wants to try out my method, I will consult with you for free and then you can tell me if my method is worth anything. 🙂

          I did try to help a friend of mine with her paper problem, but gave up pretty quickly. She was insistent that she had to keep Every. Single. Paper. Because it’s Important, you know? There’s not much you can do to help someone like that.

          The only book I want right now is: Eliot Porter: In the Realm of Nature by Paul Martineau. But the library has it, so I’m not feeling like I have to own it right now. Sorry…

          Liked by 2 people

  13. I have a very long, two-tiered landscape bed. For fifteen years, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars trying to grow annuals. The lower tier pampered enough of them to grow and look lovely; the upper tier was hostile and rarely allowed growth. I got so fed up with even trying that I did the back-breaking work of digging up, dividing, and planting the hardiest plant there is: hosta. The next spring, they didn’t even peek out from the landscape bed.

    I’ve given up if even this indestructible plant can’t live on the second tier. Last week, I was astounded to find that at least a dozen fern-like plants filling out the hostile tier!! They’re really attractive, too. It seems that nature just took its course and decided that there was indeed something wanting to proliferate there. I only hope that they’re perennials!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. CB – I know how it feels. I live on a busy street and for years have tried desperately to get something to grow on the very edge of my boulevard.

      BUT THANKS TO TIM – I have a whole bunch of healthy hostas coming up right now. I waited with baited breath all winter and it looks like all 14 of them that I transplanted from tim’s old house are thriving!

      Maybe in a couple of years, if I need to thin them out, I can bring some out to you!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Pardon a little comment on this idiom. I looked into it a long time ago. The phrase should be “I waited with bated breath . . .” Baited breath is when I consume a garlic pasta meal and forget to brush my teeth. The word is actually “bated,” a shortened form of “abated.” The phrase means to feel such anticipation that you almost forget to breathe.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Ha ha! I do actually know this but you know how it is when your fingers get going… I didn’t even notice!!!

          Like

        2. I love this group. Make a typo and it’s good for a laugh – and the people here actually get it. If I try to make jokes about other people’s typos, they don’t understand the humor at all.

          Liked by 2 people

  14. Friend of mine and I are thinking we need to write the book, Teaching Children to Fail, helping kids to accept and embrace the fact that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you will not succeed, but you should try anyway.

    I fear too much Nietsche has been read at my house….

    Liked by 3 people

    1. If you write that book, MIG, I will promote the heck out of it for you, One of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read is by a child-raising authority I know, Heather Shumaker. Her first book was “It’s OK Not to Share.” Fantastic, common sense, anti-helicopter parent philosophy.
      Her second, released last month, is titled, “It’s OK to Go Up the Slide.”

      Her “logo” as it were, is Renegade Parenting, which is basically a throwback to a few generations ago, when parent allowed kids to be kids, let them develop at their own pace, learn to deal with each other, etc., and allow them to try, to fail, maybe get hurt a bit, and discover that it’s okay to make a mistake or be mad at someone.

      Chris

      Liked by 2 people

  15. That must feel great, Chris, to finally have a tangible thing after all the work and waiting. Congrats.

    Everything I thought I was sort of an expert in, I’ve found so many people who know more about it than I do. At present, the only thing I admit to being an expert in is teaching a few folk dances, and knowing when Husband is in the right mood for me to introduce a request for something I want.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. I sometimes am referred to as an “expert witness” in child abuse hearings. I don’the like doing it, and I know that since I am one of the few child therapists west of the Missouri River, they really don’the have any other options but to call me. My agency gets a whopping $25 witness fee from the district court every time I appear. We won’t balance the State budget with that kind of money!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s one expertise I’m glad you have, Renee. Abusing children in any manner is perhaps the thing that angers me the most and depresses me the most, knowing adults exist in this world who treat children so shamefully. Keep fighting the good and noble fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.

      Chris

      Liked by 1 person

  17. i see the comment i made didnt get posted. sorry for the poor enter button pushing. this happens on occasion

    congrats chris. i am really looking ofrward to reading it.

    Like

    1. Thanks, tim. I appreciate all the moral support and pleasurable moments I’ve enjoyed reading posts and joining the conversations. We TBers are most certainly an interesting group of individuals.

      Chris

      Like

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