Naomi Rose : Beyond Expertise
Beyond Expertise: When Writing from Your Life Is the Gift of Gifts
By Naomi Rose
Sometimes I feel like one of those people who were once social workers in the streets, and have been promoted to a higher managerial job. They make more money, but in the welter of administrative decisions and sheer paperwork that takes up the bulk of their working day, they lose touch with the people they set out to serve when they first went into this profession.
(Or you could substitute medical doctor ~ psychiatrist ~ caring politician, etc.)
I write this now because I just emerged from my time back in the "streets." I spent the last few hours writing a portion of my book-in-progress, Living in MotherWealth, for a chapter on "Being Present." Simply to allow myself time, in this wonderful studio of mine, in which to write in a way that feels like me, already gets me back to "the street" of my own way of being. But beyond allowing time, I had to consciously return to something. For I had fallen into a very common trap: to write about something by writing about something, rather than by attending to what is inside me and finding the previously unrealized words from there.
It is easy, in one sense, to be the expert. You give pointers, you give lists, you give numbered lists; you give the impression that what you are an expert in came easily, and never roughed you up, never rolled you in the dirt of unknowing, so that you came to know what you know from true experience. We live ~ certainly as far as nonfiction books go ~ in a culture of expertise. Everyone is encouraged to find out what they are an expert on and write about that, make a living from that. What doesn't often get said is that the things we know most deeply, we often feel quite vulnerable about. When we hide our true expertise behind a list of to-do's and such, we set up a barrier not only between our readers and ourselves ("You don't know and I do") but ~ more painfully ~ between ourselves and ourselves.
For this chapter on "Being Present," I had already written some very nice pieces about learning how to become present, using sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell to grow the ability to be fully present to life. But some introductory piece was needed to pull them all together, and so I indulged in writing as an expert: how important it is to be present, and so on. Not that it wasn't true ~ nothing I wrote rang false to me ~ but neither did it have a real heartbeat, the rhythm of music that only seems to be possible when the writing-attention comes from deep within the heart. Neither did it capture my own untutored interest ~ speak to me at a level deeper than conceptual thought. Nor did it connect with the heart of the book, "mother" and "wealth" and how they come together to regain (or discover) a more feminine way of Being by which to have what one needs.
There is an art to using your own life to illustrate a message and open the door for your readers to embrace your writing as a way to enter their own lives. When does writing about yourself as "it's all about me" turn into "my writing about my life is a gift by which you may discover your own"? That second way, of course, is what we seek as readers: we hunger not to know the writer's life, fascinating as it might be, so much as our own. We want mirrors of our true being; and writers who can help us see ourselves win our gratitude.
Here is an excerpt from my first, "expert"-level writing about being present: the service-provider promoted to administrator. While there's nothing to disagree with in it, I suspect that in reading it you will not find a door that opens you to your own inner life regarding learning to become present: