How to Fail as an Expert

How to Fail as an Expert

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When you have a good knowledge of a subject but know that you’re not an expert, you will put in the necessary work to write informative articles. It’s when you already feel like an expert that you are most likely to fail. How does this happen?

1. You assume that everyone knows the basics of your topic

You have become so familiar with your subject matter that it seems like you’ve always known it. The basics are common sense – to you. Not to your audience.

You may not have noticed this problem with your writing. There’s often no feedback when people don’t know what you’re talking about. If you’ve ever had a job dealing with customers, I’m sure you’ve noticed this problem. When you first get the job, there are a lot of details to learn. A couple of weeks later, the job has become routine. A couple of months later, the customers sound like idiots for the stupid ideas they have. Of course, they aren’t idiots. They just don’t know those few simple details.

Writing articles are a bit more complicated than customer service. If you don’t give your readers the basics of your subject, you can leave them with more questions than answers. This is a busy world. Most readers will decide you don’t make sense and move on to another writer in your field. “Sorry about your luck”.

2. You assume that your expertise in one area transfers to all areas

Just because you can crank out 10 articles a day doesn’t mean you’re also an expert at writing novels, for example. Short nonfiction is a long way from long fiction.

Another example. I have a degree in psychology with a minor in philosophy. I have read psychology magazines, books and textbooks for over 20 years. There’s not much I don’t know about psychology. That doesn’t transfer to philosophy. I know that I only have a strong knowledge of philosophy when it comes to existentialism. I’ve read over 100 books on or by existential philosophers and took some courses on it in university. If I were to try to write like an expert on modern philosophy (c. 1500 – 1850 A.D.), I would fail.

Know the limits of your expertise. You can always study more. When writing about any new subject, do some research to check your level of expertise before you start writing.

3. You have enough training that you don’t feel a need to keep learning

Knowledge is growing at an exponential rate. With online collaboration, new ideas are appearing all the time.

Most knowledge growth is in science and technology. If your writing involves either, you already know you need to keep studying.

Knowledge related to the social sciences and many careers isn’t changing a lot. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing new happening. Even if the basic facts aren’t changing, there are new ways of understanding how they all go together. Read widely on your topic and you won’t be left behind as an expert.

4. You assume you don’t need help from other experts

This is another plug in favor of reading. Since you’re a writer, you’re also a big reader too (if you’re any good). Are you writing about cars, but reading social anthropology and novels? If you want to maintain your expert status, you need to keep reading your subject.

You should automatically be reading more about what you write. You are still interested aren’t you? If not, why are you writing about it?

We hear a lot about the benefits of life-long learning. As a writer, it is absolutely necessary.


Article by Ivan Izo.

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