You're an expert, I'm an expert

Yesterday I went out for coffee with a friend and a young man interested in pursuing a career as an editor. I felt a little nervous about it, wondering what I’d find to say about what I do. Not to mention that, like most people in the world, I’m making it up as I go along and still have a lot to learn myself.

But once I actually arrived, we had no trouble filling over an hour with editorial talk; I talked about the differences between being an “editor” and “copyeditor,” working for a company vs. working freelance, the questions you need to ask before starting a job, when you have the leverage to ask for more and when you should just accept what you’ve been offered, how you have to work for free for a long time before someone will pay you to do it, and other various editorial tips. And as things wound down, I thought, Wow, I really am an expert!

We’re so used to hearing the word “expert” on CNN and documentaries that I think we get shy about applying that word to ourselves. But each of us really is an expert on something, and most of us are experts at many things, whether it’s writing, making a sale, or knowing how to tell when a pet is sick. That old cliche of “making lemonade” has never really resonated with me, but I’m thinking of how many difficult or scary experiences have made me an “expert” on handling different situations; there’s nothing like life to hone your skills. So the next time life throws you a “lemon,” or even something that makes you nervous or slightly uncomfortable, look at it as an opportunity to hone your expertise. And once that expertise is there, do the world a favor, and share it.