By Peter B. Giblett
Will the Real Expert Please Stand Up
Who is an expert in any subject? Must they have published a book? Truth is, they can be a master without having published anything, no blog posts, no articles, nothing, just their daily work to back them up.
Think about it for a moment, who do you ask how to do it? Some real examples of people I have encountered, albeit a long time ago:
- I needed Iain’s assistance when writing a program to read strain gauges – he knew everything there was to know about how they worked and the signals they sent and what happened when they were overstressed.
- Sita told me about how the switching mechanism on the production line worked. She showed me how, if the speed was too high products would jam, and sometimes parts would jump out of place. Another programming problem.
Let Me Show You What I Know
Like these here, most experts have regular everyday jobs. But, they give you the answer you need. Whether they know as much as the ‘top expert’ in the world is irrelevant. They solve your problem and get you going again. It is what they do. Most will never write a book. That fact makes them no less an expert.
One of the reasons many experts are encouraged to start blogging is to get known by others in their field. Through these efforts, they get more widely recognized. Not everyone has the time to craft a book. More have time to blog. The rest are too busy with their normal life. I question whether published books make you a master of your subject for good reason.
Too many people highlight a writer’s achievement by the number of books they have published. Probably the wrong criteria to use.
Behind the Scenes Writers
There are thousands of writers that merely write marketing copy. Others in business write reports. If you are an expert, writing a book is not essential. It can help, but it is not crucial.
Derek Haines writes in his blog, Just Publishing Advice, that “depending on your goals and aspirations, success as a writer can come in many forms.” It is not necessarily about creating a best seller.
I recall, in an earlier career, developing a high level of understanding about a specialist subject. For many aspects I became the ‘go to’ guy about the software solution. I wished to have time to write the book on the subject but never did. At one time, I was asked to write an article for a technical journal, which was published. A copy of that exists somewhere in my files.
Apart from that, my writing at that time consisted of writing specifications and reports and creating bids for contracts. Not, therefore a published author. My life experience has convinced me that there are many unpublished experts around the globe. Most have no desire to have their thoughts published. I always had the desire to tell others the things I know, hence the reason for writing a blog.
Specialists are the Experts
Consider how many areas of human endeavour there are. Within each, there are many specialties and sub-specialties. The breadth and depth of human knowledge are vast and continuously expanding.
There is always a new can of expertise to open. Many people, even experts, will never write or publish anything. Why would they? Their lives are too busy, cutting open eyes, or installing gas turbines.
Experts are Ghostwriters, Too
At the other end of the scale are writers who have published dozens of factual books yet know little or nothing about the topic on which they write. Saying this is not being critical of that writer. It is a fact of life. Their role is to write about the subject assigned to them by the publisher. I have personally ghost-written e-books but am not happy working on topics I know little about.
One writer I know earns her living entirely as a ghostwriter. Writing books and e-books about any subject her client’s request, from AI computing to farming foodstuffs. To her, they are just projects to complete. Not so different from those specialist projects I once worked on. They fulfill a client’s need and give the writer a payment. She doesn’t see the resulting product unless she buys it.
Notwithstanding, a good writer takes the materials at hand, performs research, to produce a satisfactory output. Saying it that way oversimplifies the process, but it is fundamentally correct.
No Time to Publish a Book
Many writers have never written a book, and possibly never will. They have their roles – journalists, magazine writers, proposal writers, report writers, and more.
Do published books make you a master of your subject? I would hope so, but not necessarily, and we have seen why.
On the surface, writing a book is easy. Or is it? Jerry Jenkins, author of more than 190 books, published How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps.
While he acknowledges that we’re all busy, one point is clear: “How important is it to you to finally write your book? What will you cut from your calendar each week to ensure you give it the time it deserves?” Ready to give up Netflix, that thriller, or concert? Then maybe you do have a book in you.
Even with a Book, I Still Have Unfinished Works
I recently published an e-book.
I also have several writing projects that could be published:
- Professional book. Wrote 19 chapters. Unfortunately, in writing chapter 19, I accidentally destroyed chapter 18. The effort spent writing chapter 18 was significant and losing it was soul destroying. Needs 7 or 8 more chapters.
- Novel. Completed during NaNoWriMo, 2015. Awaiting editing.
- Several E-books, ghostwritten for customers and published.
- Ghostwritten more than 20 websites for clients.
- A novel, in progress, 35,885 words, and counting – I work on this most weeks.
- Another novel, 26,906 words, and counting – working on this with my wife, it is her story which I am filling out and adding substance to.
- My Blog is always unfinished, needing new material
On top of this, I have published more than 1,000 web articles on a collection of sites garnering more than 1.5 million views. I think I know something about writing on the web.
Learning to be the Expert
Of course, I have had my share of rejections, too many to count this year. Am I a published author? I don’t count myself as one, although the message from Smashwords when completing the publication process was “congratulations, you are now a published author.”
My expertise today is different than it was 15 years ago. That is life. As time moves on you change. Sometimes you control the change, and at other times it controls you. Each time you react, adjust and move on. Writers are as prone to this as anyone. The critical aspect is always learning from things that happen.
The next question to ask is if it is possible to be an expert if you make a mistake? You could respond with a flat out ‘no.’ You could also answer ‘yes.’ I think both answers are correct.
Despite knowledge and expertise, things change. The software supplier provides a system update, and critical elements work differently than in the last version. Yes, there is a learning curve associated with all change. The expert becomes a trainee for a short time. Once they understand the new functions, they can become an expert again.
An Expert Just Has the Confidence to Write
What is lacking is usually confidence.
Sort that out, and the rest often follows.
Blog writing seems the logical starting point for many people in the modern world.
If you’re not ready to publish a blog, then find sites that need your expert advice.
Peter B. Giblett is a freelance editor and writer with a background in business and technology management. He is also a non-practicing lawyer. English born, now living in Canada. He’s an Alumni of City University (London) and University of West London. Entrant and winner of National Novel Writing Month 2015, a novel he is currently editing.
He runs his own blog called GobbledeGoox, which provides thoughts on writing, blogging, words, and word-craft.
Published posts on Two Drops of Ink: Click here for All of Peter’s articles on Two Drops
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