While I was researching some ways to improve my blog content, I found that many experienced bloggers propose “sharing your expertise” as a good way to gain more page views.
I wasn’t quite sure how to follow their advice. With only twenty years under my belt, I’m reluctant to call myself an expert on anything. I thought I knew a lot about music and writing, but UC Berkeley has managed to convince me otherwise. In fact, college has taught me that I know little to nothing about anything.
-Pretending to know what I’m doing
I admit that the last skill on the list is not the most glamorous, but I’ve come to discover its usefulness. We as writers can give the illusion that we are experts on anything, precisely by pretending to know what we’re talking about. Inevitably, once other people learn that you have the ability to put sentences together, they’ll start asking you to write about subjects you know nothing about. That’s where the grueling task of research comes in. The best writers hide their inexpertise on a subject behind a smattering of solid research and well-packaged words.
Writing about topics other than yourself can prove to be quite tricky. In journalism, even the slightest misprint or misrepresentation can get a reporter sued for libel. Scary. People will call you out viciously if you drop the ball on one detail or forget one of the million perspectives you can possibly take on an issue. Unfortunately, misrepresentation of other people is inevitable, simply because you are not them. Case in point, travel writing. Everywhere we go, many of us write the same sappy story about how the “natives” have such different cultures but are still part of the same big, happy global family. Look, Mom, the Koreans are obsessed with their smartphones too! And after spending two weeks in Korea, I’m now an expert on eating kimchi and front-kicking people taekwondo style!
Even fiction is unsafe from the criticisms. Since works of fiction often have roots in reality, unconvincing stories will make readers drop their attention and turn back to their phone games. People have no qualms about tearing apart plots, characters, and settings.
Despite criticisms from other people, it’s important to keep researching, thinking, and writing, writing, writing. You can never be an expert on any culture unless you were born and raised in the country, but you can be the expert on how to be a polite tourist in a foreign place or how to navigate the culture shock of mingling with people who comfortably walk around nude at the sauna. Be an expert on your own perspective, but be open to conversation with the other many voices in the world. Write to prove that you have been thinking hard about a topic and to learn about your own thoughts in the process.
Needless to say, all of my “expert” advice is just a performance of my own inexpertise. But I know for sure that when I write about something, I think about the subject so deeply that I imbibe it and make it a part of myself. Over time, my soul will be a neat collection of random details from Shakespeare tragedies, disturbing predictions for the downfall of humanity, and stories about girls talking to squirrels in trees. And that is why, in a nutshell, writing is such a noble, all-encompassing task.