I can work with that structure. I’m not required to be an expert on anything but my own process, such as I understand it. But it raises some philosophical questions I’d love to explore with you.
When I was in family practice, the half-life of medical knowledge was five years, meaning that 50% of anything I learned in 2000 would be out of date by 2005. With that kind of turnaround, which only accelerated as technology advanced, it was impossible to be an expert in everything I’d see in the course of a day. So I developed strategies to cope. I needed to:
- Possess enough knowledge to handle emergencies and common medical problems.
- Know when my skillset had been exceeded and be willing to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”
- Maintain a web of effective resources at my fingertips.
- Follow through.
Now, to tie this back into writing: At this stage in my career, I’d say I have some intellectual understanding of how to answer these Writer Unboxed questions. I possess rudimentary personal experience. I know some resources and I can and will qualify my responses as coming from a novice.
On a personal level, I’ve also had gifted teachers who were able to teach me both content and process without necessarily having done it all themselves. Heck, I know there were multiple times in my training or younger years in practice when I’d startle my preceptors. Sometimes my knowledge was more current. Sometimes I had benefit of fresh eyes and less cynicism.
In other words, I don’t believe the issue of competence is black and white.
But those are my thoughts. I’d love to hear from you: Do you believe people can teach what they haven’t yet mastered through experience?
Is it possible, for instance, to be a life long celibate, but counsel a couple on sexuality? Can a smoker effectively help another individual quit? Or do you believe that one should exhibit personal mastery in order to teach?
Since we’re on the subject of competence, a few links you might enjoy:
A passage from Rowan Somerville’s The Shape of Her which won the Bad Sex Award. If you’ll forgive the pun, I think it “drives home” the message that animal metaphors are seldom welcome in a scene describing sexual intimacy. Also, that authors can exemplify grace despite scathing reviews, as per this excerpt from the Literary Review:
‘There is nothing more English than bad sex,’ said Somerville, whose first novel, The End of Sleep, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. ‘So on behalf of the nation, I thank you.’
Kristen Lamb had a superb post this week on the mindset of the professional author.
Own dogs and find yourself baffled by them? Check out this Hyperbole and a Half about moving with pets. If you don’t find yourself crying with laughter, might want to get yourself checked to see if you still have a palpable pulse. (I’m just sayin’.)