A year ago, I did not have credentials. My experience, by many standards, was unimpressive. Writing samples are an essential thing to have as a writer still in the very early stages of a career, but they can only go so far.
As I’m writing this post, I still haven’t done most of the things that would grant me “expert” status in the publishing world. I haven’t published a full-length book. I haven’t won any contests. I haven’t created or taught any courses. I don’t have impressive follower counts on any of my online platforms, and I’ve only been doing what I do for about five years, professionally.
But I still want to be treated respectfully. I want to be appreciated. But more than anything, I want to make a difference, whether I have all those fancy labels and impressive accomplishments or not.
And I know I’m not the only one.
What does it take to be an “expert” in this game we call writing for a living? It depends on who you ask. At this point I’m still best known for this blog (I said best known, not widely known, haha), which puts me into a category of writers that is bigger than I can even fathom.
Basically, I’m nothing special. Maybe because my work and this blog are separate — maybe people expect me to write more about writing, but I don’t, because literally everyone does that.
Technically, I’m still figuring out exactly what this blog is. Because it’s definitely not a blog that teaches you how to write. I’ve been tossing around an idea for a course for almost six months now, but I refuse to do that simply because that’s what everyone else does.
All that doesn’t mean I can’t still have an impact on the community I’m a part of. It’s frustrating — we all want to be considered valuable in everything we do. But that’s just it: we all want the same thing.
To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever publish a book or win an award or create a course. I don’t know if I’ll ever be an “expert” of anything, at least not anytime soon. But that’s the majority of us. The problem is that hard work over long periods of time does pay off, but many people don’t have the patience or resources to wait that long.
So they give up before they have a chance to shine.
I don’t want that to happen to you. To any of us.
The best advice I have for you now — for all of us — is to keep going. Build up your credibility, be inclusive, join into conversations when you have valuable additions to make. Be respectful and kind. People don’t value experts simply because they know everything about their subject area. They value knowledgeable people who are willing to be open to a variety of discussions, to criticisms, to questions, to concerns. People who don’t just repeat what’s already known, but clarify what’s assumed.
Maybe you’re not a doctor or a certified blah blah blah. Maybe you have zero years of experience and your blog only has 2.5 followers. So what? In time, you can create a platform that matters. In the end, credentials don’t matter as much as the words you publish for your audience. If they don’t carry passion and meaning behind them, your efforts will always be for nothing.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.