Thursday, February 7, 2013

Never Trust an Expert

I allow myself to be bombarded with advice (build a platform, know your genre, write articles) which I gleefully ignore, and I give things a go, often prematurely.

So my recent holiday experience comes as no surprise to me. Let me explain (sit, I have slides).

I am not a great skier. In fact, I'm not even a very good one, but I agreed to a skiing holiday in Japan, pleased that my equally-hopeless sister, Ro, was joining me so we could check out each other's face-planting techniques.

The third adult in the party is a competent black-run (diamond, sapphire, whatever) skier.

"Here's a really good green run," he says. "It's wide; it's not busy; blah blah blah."

So my sister and I followed the advice of the expert, made it off the ski lift without bowling ourselves or anyone else over, and stood at the top of the slope, wondering how on earth we came to be there and how we would ever get down again.

It was just too steep for us.
Nevertheless, we trusted the advice of the expert and struggled down the slope. I'd like to say that my abilities surpassed my expectations, but alas, they did not.

After a great deal of face-planting, filled with terror, rather than laughter, we made it to the bottom, clicked off the wretched skis, and looked back up the slope. "What on earth were we thinking?"

My confidence was shattered. So was my sister's. We lugged our gear back to our accommodation, wondering if we could claim a refund on our lift passes, and co-ordinating the books we would read for the remainder of the trip.

After a hearty hot pot meal and restful night, Ro and I arose the next morning determined to redeem ourselves. We studied the plan of the mountain, diligently selected runs better suited to our abilities (or lack of), and set off once more.

Eureka! We flew past other face-planters and revelled in our expertise. We swooped down the slope like the bullet train in for service. We had conquered the foot of the mountain. Hurrah for us!

So what has this got to do with writing? Not much, I guess, but I did utter these philosophies to myself to combat chronic brain freeze:

1. I wasn't reading Bird by Bird, but I was living it, snowflake by snowflake.
2. To master the top of the mountain, you must first master the bottom.
3. It doesn't hurt to extend yourself, but don't be surprised to learn you're not as good as you think you are.
4. If you're not ready, step back and be patient.
5. There's no point doubting your abilities. It's better to learn what they are, and work with them.
6. Don't give up. There's a spot for you. If you keep on looking, you'll find it.
7. Only you know where you're at, so
8. Never trust an expert.


  1. Wonderful article, Erica! The kind I really like. Taking a life experience and relating it to the writing world you're entering. Living BBB seems to have done some good! I was wondering where you were at. Was about to jot off an email.

    1. Cheers, Mike. It's funny how life becomes one big series of writing lessons after awhile. Okay, I give up, what's BBB? (Is it like a bun dance?)

    2. BBB = Bird by Bird. Sheesh. :o) Yes...I equate everything to becoming a better writer, now.

    3. Oh, you mean THAT BBB? Okay, that deserves a head-slap. I'm blaming the extreme cold to extreme heat transition. That one's good for at least another week, I'm figuring.

  2. I think that I would trust an expert with a caveat. Is their skill vital to extending my life.

    Heart Surgeon, if I am having a heart attack? Yes trust.
    Any type of extreme sport athlete (Julie) on a snow packed mountain? Not so much.
    Airline pilot? Maybe, is it me flying your jet or is it Karlene? I would trust Karlene.
    English teacher who has a web site devoted to writing? If it is Big Joe? Yes.
    Cute guy in a blue shirt? Sure, what could possibly go wrong?
    A lady named Erica who gets tricked by some hot Olympic/X-game skier? Yes, we all have been there before.

    1. I'm talking about the expert who either, a) has such blind faith in your abilities that it's dangerous, or b) has a skill so ingrained in his or her nature that that person can not possibly fathom the total incompetence of another person. I'm pretty sure I was dealing with expert b).

      Hmm, cute guy in blue shirt. Skill vital to extending your life. I'm going to have to think about that particular equation.

    2. It is a skill! Finding the perfect shade of blue (royal or french is nice). Looking cute when I wear it. Those things don't just happen. I work all night long on that look. And standing beside me ups everybody's "score" potential. Pure skill...skill, I say. Take it from an expert. :o)

    3. Have you considered option C? He wanted to get you guys on a slope that he knew you were not ready for so that he could watch you face plant.

      Not saying he is the type of guy like me. I walk into a room, say something to shake it up and leave while laughing at the turmoil that I just created. Kind of like shaking up a snow globe and watching the snow fly all over the place.

      Now, how many times do I have to say, get back to work? Ha ha.

    4. Mike, I find your claim scarily easy to believe. Most people just fall back on black and call it good.

      Rob, now that you mention it, he did smugly state, 'I saw you on the slope,' but this was closely followed by, 'Why were you carrying your skis?' (True story.)

      I think I was trapped in that snow globe you're talking about. Sort of like a horror winter version of Stephen King's The Dome.

  3. Yup. Advice from experts is good, but ultimately, we know our limitations. Good for you for choosing a path and trying again.

    1. The scary thing is when we don't know our limitations. I think there's a fine line between, 'I thought I could, I thought I could,' and, well, an almighty train wreck.

      Thanks for stopping by, Melissa. I'm finding some really interesting stuff on your site.

  4. Great article, Erica. I love when life experiences give me pause for thought about other areas in life. I love when life experiences don't require a face-plant in the snow, but we can't always control that. I cross-country ski and have been in a helpless tangle of skis and poles a time or two (or three) myself. The falls are a little more gentle though.

    I agree about taking the word of experts, even other bloggers, with a grain of salt. Sometimes you have to tune out and tune in. Nothing wrong with learning the hard way. I hope not. It's how I usually do it. ;)

    1. Ro and I agreed that we were probably better suited to cross-country. I've heard terrible (ly funny) stories about those tree wells though.

      Muley Julie learning the hard way? Now, there's a surprise. The face-plant style of learning adds a whole new level of understanding, I find. Nothing wrong with that at all... especially if pain is minimal.

  5. Well of course face-planting is the only way to live and learn. I fall on my face all the time. I'm an EXPERT at it. Although, thankfully, it never happens on snow-drenched mountains.

    Glad you returned without broken bones.

    1. Your face looks mighty fine for someone who falls on it all the time.

      Luckily, I was far too slow to break anything, though I did almost wipe out a group of Japanese school girls.

  6. I would have taken my skis off and walked down. :D

    1. How did I miss your comment?? Ha ha, that's actually what my sister and I ended up doing at the bottom where it was really ridiculous. We figured it was either that or end up in hospital.