You Don’t Have to Be An Authority

In 2006 I’d already been writing Movie Marketing Madness for two years, first at Film Threat and then on my own blog. It was then that a well-known movie news/opinion writer linked to that blog and highlighted my stuff, describing me as likely being a single, lonely guy who had worked in advertising for years. I left a comment saying no, I was married, worked a full-time job that wasn’t advertising – though it was in the marketing field – and had two kids.

I wasn’t an expert in movie marketing theory and tactics when I started MMM, just someone with an interest in how it worked and in taking a different approach to analyzing and discussing new trailers and such. There was no reason I should have started writing about it and no reason my work should have achieved any sort of recognition.

Likewise, a non-fiction book I’m working on right now is on a subject I’ve only tangentially written about in the past, though I’ve done so more frequently recently. It’s something that caught my attention and sparked some questions in my mind and I’ve since thrown myself into it.

Expertise on a subject is important and I’m the first one to advocate for books, articles and papers from those who have spent years or decades studying a particular issue, industry or topic. Their work forms the foundation of knowledge and when it is discounted or ignored we all suffer.

There’s also, though, space in the debate for the outsider who comes in with a fresh perspective and an eagerness to learn, even as he or she is sharing that learning process in public as it happens. They often come at a subject without the biases and assumptions found in subject matter experts and may question some things that haven’t been held to much scrutiny in a good long while.

This is not advocating for ill-informed trolling or taking outrageous positions while willfully remaining ignorant of certain realities. That’s just being a jerk.

Writers, though, shouldn’t be afraid to sometimes write about topics they have little experience with. It’s useful to throw some new ideas out there and show that you’re interested in a subject and eager to learn more as you contribute and listen to the conversation currently happening. Do your research and become informed, but don’t feel as if you have to wait until you’ve achieved a PHD in a field, or that you have to have a decade of experience in order to make your voice heard.

New participants and perspectives should be and are welcome, assuming they are contributing in good faith and are willing to have their positions, opinions and conclusions held to some level of professional standard. Making outrageous statements just to “challenge the status quo” without grounding them in reality or erecting straw men to make a illogical point isn’t helpful.

If you want to explore a subject you haven’t previously, do so. Right now I’m pitching the book being written to different publishers and making it clear what kind of experience I do or don’t have, but still pointing out the *why* behind me taking on the subject and what I hope to offer to the industry. Don’t let previous lack of experience hold you back from exploring new areas that are of interest to you, just make sure you’re not jumping in and assuming you’ll be held up as an expert within minutes. Your voice is important but it will take time to gain stature as someone to be taking seriously.

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