Certainly, as a culture, we are sold on the idea that we learn what’s most important by attending school. Along with adding to our storehouse of knowledge, degrees confer status, validation, and the right to write. And it's true, attaining a degree is a true accomplishment and has meaning and worth.
When we’re writing for an academic audience or are expounding on something technical or trying to teach complex methodology, a degree can be a boon. Some readers will only look at our books if we have letters after our names.
On the other hand, do all readers value the same things? Are they all looking for input from school-taught experts?
In my experience, the answer is a big “no.” People want to read about how others like them are meeting life’s challenges. They want to hear personal stories about loss, renewal, redemption, victory, and just slogging along until you get to the other side. And they want to hear from writers who have been through it, writers with whom they can identify.
How do you do that? How do you write a book with authority that appeals to readers? You do that by writing to someone like you. And to do that, you only have to be an expert in one thing. Your own experience.
And you’re the only one who can do that. No one else can write a book based on what you have gleaned from your travails and your triumphs, big or small in scope. You are the top expert in your field because you are the only one who can write from your life experience and with your unique perspective.
So, don’t be afraid to write about what interests you and what you feel strongly about because in all the millions of people on the planet, there are many who want to hear from you. They want your brand of clarity, your humor, your quirkiness, your angle, and your unique insights.
After all, for many subjects, Life is our best teacher, and direct experience our highest certification.
Sarah Anne Shockley believes that writing can be a deeply transformative process for both author and reader. She has published books on travel and living with chronic pain. Her latest book, The Pain Companion, will be released by New World Library June 2018. She is currently working on a YA magical realism novel set in Guatemala.