Today I am opening myself up for criticism from anyone who knows me well and could identify the times I spoke or wrote about something when I had no idea about what I was communicating.
The blogger’s curse…to fill space, we venture into uncharted territory.
I confess starting to write a post for this agency’s blog and getting halfway through before realizing I had no idea what I was talking about. At least a half-dozen times in the last 3+ years I’ve written something and then deleted it in it’s entirety before finishing, not because it wasn’t true or maybe even helpful, but because I was the wrong person to write it.
Once, I started writing about the myriad of writing-environments in which an author works. It was really going great, but then, I realized this was something best written by others in this agency who have actually written books and understood the artistic process better than I.
So now, before I start a particular blog, I test the concept by asking, “Am I qualified to write this?” Sometimes the answer is no.
With social media and self-publishing, we are living in the age of uninformed and unqualified opinion being distributed for the whole world to read.
Because everyone in the world now has access to mass media, a virtual blizzard of opinion is made available where the originator had little or no knowledge beyond their own thoughts and Google.
It has the effect of “poisoning the well” for qualified communicators.
Credibility is important. I’ve covered this general theme before in the post “The Credibilty Gap” but the topic bears coverage again and again from various angles because the problem is so pervasive.
This issue for writers is particularly troublesome.
Writers of certain types of fiction who have first-hand or substantial knowledge of a geographic area or historic period are driven crazy by those who obviously learned everything they know from Wikipedia.
Those who have a long-standing marriage ministry or people who have been married for a long time see marriage books from authors who have been married for two years. Maybe wait for your twentieth anniversary for the book.
Then there are parenting books from someone with one small child or no children at all. Yes, Biblical principles are available to everyone. But trust me, parenting skills and insight when you are outnumbered and sleep-deprived are different than anything you can imagine. Wait until they are grown and you have some perspective developed over time.
Some write books they are not qualified to write and do it successfully. They are called co-authors. A good writer joins together with a highly qualified person and the sum of the parts is greater than it would have been if they had written separately.
So, how do you avoid writing something you are unqualified to write?
- Make sure you know what you are talking about before you start writing.
- Ask yourself this question, “How many years have I spent learning and studying this?” The answer should be plural years, preferably in double digits. Books are a result of deep knowledge and familiarity, not casual reading plus the Internet. Facebook is meant for something you just learned this week.
- Ask yourself if those around you would be surprised by your book topic. If they don’t believe you are an expert, you probably aren’t. “Hey Frank, I had no idea you knew so much about nuclear power! Imagine that, someone from the accounting department!”
- In the midst of writing, be humble enough to stop when you realize you are in over your head. Every successful author has a drawer full of material they never intend to show anyone. If you don’t have anything, you haven’t written long enough.
The theology issue for Christian writers is a tricky one. There is an understanding of theology anyone can understand and comment on. If you have no formal theological training, stick with the “anyone can understand” stuff. Leave the explanation of the Trinity, predestination and Revelation for the experts.
So, another post reminding authors to be humble, realistic and pliable when writing. You’d think I’d run out of saying the same thing over and over.