My coworker taught me a word that I worry may describe my writing: Taradiddle. Taradiddle has two definitions:
- a small lie; fib
- pretentious nonsense
You can probably guess which definition my work, and maybe my whole personality, falls under. I imagine someone picking up something I’ve written and saying, to use it in a sentence, “This story is a whole lot of taradiddle. This poor author’s perspective is all catawampus, bless his heart.” (Catawampus is another word taught to me by a coworker, which is how I know to say “bless your heart” afterward.)
See, I’ve got ideas, man, and those ideas feel big. Ideas about things as abstract as the nature of time and what justice is to an uncaring, ambivalent universe. And ideas about things as concrete as (in)equality of all kinds and the role government plays in our lives. Things I’ve studied and thought about and have questions that aren’t easily answered. But as I’m writing I always wonder why the fuck anyone would care about my thoughts on these things?
I’m a straight white guy. My perspective is that of a straight white guy. Is that perspective really one the world needs more of? I’m not an expert in anything in particular (at least, not anything of interest to anyone–even me), so even with the best research I’m capable of my approach to any specific topic isn’t likely to be the most informed.
But most authors aren’t necessarily writing about topics in which they’re experts. Stephen King and Chuck Wendig weren’t infectious disease experts when they wrote The Stand and Wanderers. J.K. Rowling didn’t practice magic as a young boy–she’s only slightly magical and has never been a young boy. Still, these authors wrote affecting, profound stories around these topics.
Maybe it comes down to having the confidence in your craft and ability to communicate some sort of truth even if the facts aren’t totally on point. Profundity isn’t necessarily complexity. It as much truth to say that being heartbroken is a painful shared experience as it is to explain the mechanics of orbital gravity and how that affects the tides. What matters, then, is the emotional connection author makes with reader and how those truths are communicated in a way that is felt. Perhaps it’s as much about relating to one another through story as it is about the explanation of ideas. In that sense, our A/S/L (those over college-age might get that) or expertise doesn’t matter so much.
Despite my worry of spewing taradiddle or coming off as pseudo-intellectual (which, let’s be honest, is probably exactly what I am), the aim is for a connection and not to be seen as an authority on anything specific. In fact, I think it’s dangerous to consider anyone an authority about anything they haven’t dedicated their lives to. That’s how we get appeals to false authority and experts in one field falling prey to the Dunning-Kruger effect when discussing another, perhaps related, field. That’s how misinformation spreads.
So I’ll continue to write potential taradiddle as I explore these ideas and try to answer the questions that vex me. The hope, then, is that my taradiddle connects with people on an emotional level, if not an intellectual one.