Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Importance of Stupidity

I have been overwhelmed lately by the amount of things I don't know.

I grew up in a family where it seemed we all felt we were experts on just about anything. I loved the quote "People who think they know everything are annoying to those of us who do." It was said in jest, of course, but in reality, I found it very difficult if a question was posed to which I didn't have an answer. I simply couldn't bring myself to choke out those three little words: "I don't know." I felt I was SUPPOSED to know. If I didn't, I concluded, I must be ignorant.

As a writer, I have been trying to "know" my craft: taking courses, connecting with writers, getting involved in critique groups. The more I read good writing from others, the more inadequate I feel. When my work is critiqued and deeper questions are posed, I'm beginning to realize how my life and education to this point seems quite limited, even though I hold a university degree and have traveled extensively.

I've joked that I could never write a book because my attention span is too short. When I mused out loud to a class about something I needed to write but hadn't yet started because it was such a difficult subject, a classmate challenged me with this question: "When is the last time you've ever done something REALLY hard?"

It hit closer to home than I would like. So I wrote the article. It was harder than I anticipated. I edited and revised it numerous times. The magazine that bought it wants more edits so I need to do more research about the subject. As I continued researching, I realized it was a huge, nearly insurmountable volume of information - more than I would ever be able to absorb in time to meet my writing deadline.

All of this was very discouraging. Until today. I learned it's okay not to feel smart. It's part of the process. What works in the scientific community also has some direct application to the writing world. Take a look at this very liberating article and be encouraged.

Saying "I don't know" is okay. Stupidity is important. It motivates us to learn. :-)


(comments and feedback about your experience are requested and welcomed)


  1. Thanks! That is a good article.

  2. You know, I work through this everytime I preach a series! Especially now that I've been launched into preaching as a primary responsibilty, I come into every week realizing how little I know and being challenged to bite in and look for the hidden treasure. It's hard, and exhilarating too; especially when you add in the God-component! As a preacher, the unction trumps the function! As a writer who is also a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit! Talk about tapping into the Source of creativity!