Why “Qualified” Is a Horrible Way to Describe a Writer

qualified writer
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You know the idea. Write what you know. That will let the words flow onto the page faster and with a flavor of authenticity readers will smack their lips for.

Rephrased, the concept is, you’re not “qualified” to write something unless it comes from your own experience.

I dare you to say that to ghostwriters, journalists, or fiction writers.

By the “qualified” logic, George Lucas wouldn’t have the right to write about Yoda, because he’s never been in space or experienced the Force.

By the “qualified” logic, Sinclair Lewis wouldn’t have written Tennis As I Play It for Maurice McLoughin.

By the “qualified” logic, I wouldn’t have hundreds of bylines about business, just because I’m not a CEO.

By the “qualified” logic, modern economists shouldn’t write about the Great Depression, just because they didn’t live in the 1930s.

Being qualified is more than experience

All of these examples demonstrate that there is more to expertise than experience alone. There is the ability to ask questions. To listen. To empathize. To observe. To imagine. To gain and understand facts and ponder them critically. It is stupid to call a writer unqualified if they can use all these skills and resources to convey a nonfiction or fiction story in a way that connects and informs.

In fact, conversely, I’d go so far as to say there are many “experienced” people who couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag because they don’t have those skills. These are the people who have all kinds of facts or titles, but who can’t organize them, are deaf to connotation or implication, and who care more about book sales and views than clarity.

Consider feedback seriously but trust yourself

I stress this point this week because, as a writer, you inevitably are going to have people who turn down your manuscripts or drafts because you don’t fit their perception of what “qualified” is. They are going to want you to have the titles. The years of experience. Even degrees.

Ignore them.

Keep going.

Do you need to work and think hard and follow up? Absolutely. But as people like Amanda Gorman demonstrate, writing is more than just years under your belt. It’s more than just sharing your perspective alone. It can be about translating for others and sharing genius that’s a profound gift rather than a development. It can be about creating things that don’t even exist.

So don’t just write what you know. Write what others know, too. Write what you wish they knew. Make a new reality based on what doesn’t even exist but that will become known. When you aren’t afraid to do that, you’ve got every “qualification” that matters.