Experts Are Overrated

As children we’re all urged to do stuff. Some of us are encouraged to be creative: draw or paint or write or maybe, um… make spaetzle. But as we get a little older expectations rise. Scribbling is no longer sufficient, finger paints are inadequate, our prose must inspire and indeed- so should our spaetzle.

But why must we be so damn good at everything? What’s wrong with an adequate sketch? Or competent writing? Do we really have to become an expert at something if we want to continue doing it beyond puberty?

I heard an interview with Lynda Barry on NPR back in 2008.  She was promoting a book called What It Is, where she explored our loss of that creative urge as we age:

“Something happens to us as we get a little older. Adults would never consider [drawing] on a piece of paper and then just throwing it away afterwards. In fact, unless it’s valuable afterwards, most adults don’t think the experience was worth it. So that’s kind of what the book is about. It’s about what happens. What happens to that creative urge.”
— Lynda Barry

Over the years I’ve dabbled with a wide variety of hobbies, fascinations and obsessions- photography, cars, music, sketching, web design, video, even blogging (like the one you’re reading now). Every so often someone will mistake me for someone who knows what they’re doing. But I don’t feel guilty about it. My piece of paper isn’t valuable, but it doesn’t mean I wasted my time or should be embarrassed about it. I will continue to muddle along, and if I get better at it that’s wonderful. If not, I really don’t have a problem with just being okay.

That fear of being “okay” at something is enough to keep most people on the couch. So many people are frightened of not being the very best at something. It’s a sad reflection on our society.

Maybe your spaetzle is only okay, but at least you had the courage to make it.

And I applaud that.

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