Who Are You Calling An Expert?

Because the Internet loves cats. Public domain.

A strange transformation happens after you’ve been doing something for a few years. Whether its writing or swing dancing, people around you start to notice. Maybe they can sense your comfort, or experience gives off a distinct odor, but others begin to gravitate toward you, seeking the source of your success. And they usually bring questions. For a writer with a few years of writerly toil under his belt, these questions generally take some form of, “Can you read this and tell me how to get it published?”

I had someone ask me that last week, someone I barely knew. I said I was a writer and the next thing I knew, I was being asked for professional advice. I don’t mind giving it, but am I qualified? I’m not a wise man or a guru. I haven’t found my big break. When the hot spotlight is on me, do I actually have anything useful to tell someone just starting to dabble in the words business?

In all fairness, I’m not new at this writing thing; I’ve been writing since before I could read. I have been doing this for years. Still, when someone asks me for advice, all I can think of are the things I don’t know. I don’t know how to get published (other than its really hard, probably requires a fair bit of luck and I haven’t done it yet). I feel like a cat holding a press conference (see image above).

But when the anxiety wears off, I realize that I do have one or two nuggets of wisdom. Always have someone edit your work with ruthlessness. Read everything you can about everything you can. Practice writing all the time. Those are good places to start. I don’t want to come off as arrogant to a new writer. Not too long ago, I was right where they’re standing. Like them, I sought out more experienced voices and even if they couldn’t answer all of my questions, they did the best they could.

After reading through my acquaintance’s piece, I didn’t have any earth-shattering insight to give. So, I did the best I could, pointing out edits I noticed and offering words of encouragement. We’ve all been there.

Writers are a close-knit community. If we refuse help to people on their way up the ladder, we may discourage promising new talent. Most of us made it this far with help. It only makes sense to pass our hard-won knowledge on to others.

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Jonny Eberle doesn’t have all the answers, but he does have a fancy Twitter feed. Please leave your comments below and thanks for reading!

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