Who Made You The Expert???

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

I read a post yesterday from an acquaintance who excitedly announced she was now earning a full time living as a writer. I remember the feeling the first time somebody paid me to write. Okay, it was technical stuff – how to build an auto-chuck assembly for an electronic engraving machine, but from that day forward I could call myself a writer. Mom would have been proud.

When I first started creative writing, I wondered what qualifies a person to call themselves a writer. A few well-intended friends said, “If you write, you’re a writer!” Okay, so I’m a writer. I’m also a cook, a driver, a babysitter, and a trash-taker-outer, in case you were wondering. But what I learned is there are no real qualifications. You know, like running for public office.

Writing is a lot like stand-up comedy. You do it for free until somebody says, “Hey, I’ll give you a few bucks to do that again.” A “few bucks” being the key phrase. My first year as a comedian I made zero. Nada. Zilch. My second year I made $300. Woohoo!!!  By then, I’d logged a total of 36,000 miles doing shows for “exposure.” IRS sent me a letter saying don’t quit your day job.

I still remember when I got my first pay as a creative writer. I was being paid very well for the technical stuff – probably in the top 1% of technical writers in the nation. It was just me and that other guy. And then I got an assignment to write three articles for a magazine, offering advice on career choices for young men. I told them don’t even think of becoming a writer.

Since then, I’ve done a lot of freelance work. If you’ve ever taken the ASVAB test to join the military and wondered who wrote those stupid questions, the answer would be me. All told, I’ve written over 1500 questions for that test. It’s not necessarily the kind of gratifying work that gets you a ton of fan mail, but it sure does pay well. And I still can’t pass the test.

When I started writing humor, I submitted to newspapers across the nation. I got a lot of great responses. In fact, I made it to the final round of editorial consideration for a regular spot with a major syndicate. I could have made upwards of $30 a week! But that was at the very beginning of the newspaper decline, and nobody was buying humor. So, I gave it away for free.

A friend, who’s now a published author and regular columnist, once asked, “Do you ever feel like we’re just faking it?” Yes. All the time. Writing and stand-up comedy are a couple of those things you just pick up on your own. Sure, you can take classes or get a journalism degree. But that doesn’t make you a good writer. It takes passion, patience, and a really thick skin.

The same is true of a lot of things in life. You find something that captivates your interest and just do it. Maybe you get good enough to get paid, and maybe that pay is enough to live on. Thankfully, I never became a good enough plumber or mechanic to get paid. That was never my thing. But writing, speaking, and entertaining have always been my passion. So, here I am.

I see a lot of people who want to expand their horizons but think they don’t have the necessary qualifications to do it. To be fair, some things do require formal training. Brain surgery comes to mind, as well as flying, dispensing pharmaceuticals, and mixing explosives. It all depends on the consequences of mistakes. Never trust a chemist with one hand missing. I’m just saying.

But a lot of things can be learned on the job. It’s called, “Fake it till you make it.” The lack of recognized credentials doesn’t mean a thing. Most of the best-known authors don’t have a formal education in writing. Most of the highest-paid musicians learned on their own. And, according to TV, a fair number of actresses started out as waitresses in the Cheesecake Factory.

With the right amount of passion, there are few obstacles you can’t overcome. Whether it’s writing, performing, parenting, or running your own business, the skills you need can be learned. All it takes is passion – the desire to achieve a personal goal, and the determination to do whatever it takes to make it happen. If you’ve got that, you’ve got it all.

That’s it for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

2 thoughts on “Who Made You The Expert???

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