Writers come in many shapes and forms. They can have jobs writing essays, reports, briefs, minutes, poems, stories etc… But, do writer really need to have expertise to be successful?
According to the dictionary definition, “a person who has special skills or knowledge in a particular field” is an expert. This means that the answer is easy when it comes to certain fields. To write a legal brief or a doctor’s report, nobody would hire a person without expertise. Also, nobody hired would be able to keep a job without adequate expertise. The legal or medical fields simply require it. Therefore, in addition to being a good writer, expertise is necessary on certain fields.
Writers of non-fiction works are not as easy to categorize. Theoretically, it is possible to create a piece of writing without an initial expertise. A person can decide to tackle a project, not knowing anything about it at first. Students do this in schools. The professor assigns a project and they go to the library to learn about it. Often times, they do not even know where to start the research. Eventually, though, they manage to find the information, based on which they can finish the assignment and hand it in. The trick is that the expertise is just initially lacking; but, through research, they gain the expertise necessary to write the non-fiction material. Therefore, in addition to encountering those who are already experts on the field, it is possible to create experts out of untrained individuals.
Writers of fictional works are even more difficult to categorize in terms of need for expertise. Firstly, some writers do already have expertise. For example, Carl Sagan was an expert scientist when he wrote his novel, Contact (1985). However, anybody could potentially research an issue and write a novel based on the research. For instance, Jorge Luis Borges had little former education, but discovered the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, which, with other philosophical discoveries, later led him to write the Labyrinths (1962). Hence, just like in the case of non-fiction writers, it possible to make oneself into an expert to a certain degree that is necessary for the work.
The question is still whether expertise is essential to become successful in the area of fiction writing. In reality, the definition of an expert allows everyone to be an expert of some kind. Any person who has any experience living a life is an expert, at least, on human life. If the person has a gift of being able to tell a good story about human life, he or she is an expert and, he may not need any more expertise.
Having said this, it is helpful to have some kind of an official expertise beyond life experience at times. For example, I have an expertise in philosophy. As a result, I enjoy putting my characters into situations where they have to struggle with philosophical questions. For example, in one of my short stories, called “Magical World”, my protagonist finds himself fighting his videogame characters on the street on the way home from work. After the fight, he goes home and falls asleep. The next day, he wonders what exactly happened on the street. This story not only questions the nature of reality, but also the way human beings know about reality. In short, it is not just about ontology, but also about epistemology. I work out the character’s challenge and let him contemplate the situation, based on arguments from philosophy. This means that an expertise may not always be necessary in creative writing, but it can help. It can help, if a person wants to make a point or present an argument on a particular subject matter, such as science, philosophy or psychology, for example.
Overall, the need for expertise depends on the field a person enters into. It may not be important in all areas, but it certainly aids in creating better arguments and in providing accurate and interesting facts.
M. J. Mandoki