How to Show Off Your Innate Expertise in Your Writing

by Katie Axelson | 28 comments

Free Book Planning Course! Sign up for our 3-part book planning course and make your book writing easy. It expires soon, though, so don’t wait. Sign up here before the deadline!

The truth is we all have  hidden expertise we don't think about. There's something you do regularly you know more about than most of your friends.

Hidden within that expertise you consider mundane is a story the rest of the world has yet to hear.

The Doctor Is In

Photo by JD Hancock (Creative Commons)

Expertise Sneaks Up on You

No matter how many adult leaders you have (we had seven) or how hard you try (some of us tried harder than others), it's impossible to keep your 70 high school students together in a sea of 25,000 other high schoolers as they walk along the San Antonio, Texas, River Walk.

It was my fourth youth trip of this kind and thus my job to share the tricks with the newbies.

Things that I'd considered normal like “Pack a snack. Food's expensive” and “Don't wear your group shirt outside. It's too hot,” were radical concepts to the less experienced leaders.

As I explained these tricks, I realized what is obvious to me, isn't always obvious to others, and the same concept applies to my writing.

Write What You Know

Yup, it's cliché and boring—to you. If you're not an astronaut, space travel isn't boring. If you're not a reporter, banging on doors to get answers isn't boring. If you're not stewardess, flights aren't boring.

What is mundane to you, may not be mundane to someone else. And that someone else may very well be your reader.

What's your most random expertise?


Write about something commonplace for you as if you're telling someone about it for the first time.

Write for fifteen minutes. When your time is up, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, please be sure to comment on a few practices by other writers.

Free Book Planning Course! Sign up for our 3-part book planning course and make your book writing easy. It expires soon, though, so don’t wait. Sign up here before the deadline!

Katie Axelson is a writer, editor, and blogger who's seeking to live a story worth telling. You can find her blogging, tweeting, and facebook-ing.


  1. Stephanie Nickel

    First Time in the Sound Booth

    First turn on the receivers. That way they’ll sync with the board. Now switch on the three power bars in order, one, two, then three. That will prevent the popping we don’t want to hear.

    Yes, there are a lot of controls on the board, but once you know what to do with one channel, it will be pretty much the same for all of them . . . depending on the instruments and vocalists on each.

    Now let’s grab the battery tester and make sure the wireless mics are good to go.

    Some operators spend a lot of time adjusting the high, mid-, and low range knobs, but I find the average person doesn’t hear the slight tweaks. I pay most attention to the volume on monitors one, two, and three, and the blend on the main speakers.

    It’s important to get input from the team on the platform. From the back of the room, we don’t know what they hear up front. Although it’s only necessary for the vocalists to hear the piano and the singer doing melody, they often want to hear themselves. I oblige rather than argue the point. Whatever helps them do their best is OK by me.

    Sometimes it’s difficult to pick out individual voices. Using the headphones and depressing the button under the slider will let you hear each singer separately. It will help you decide what volume to use on the main speakers.

    Always remember to keep an eye on the team. They will give you signals that you can work out during practice. Don’t forget to turn on the organ and keyboard as needed.

    Because the bassist controls his own volume, it’s up to you to let him know if he’s too loud or too quiet . . . but that’s usually not the problem.

    Switch off the channels that aren’t in use to avoid feedback.

    When – not if – something goes wrong, take a deep breath and deal with the problem. Try not to overreact, though your first instinct might be to bring the main volume down all the way.

    Your number one responsibility is to always, always, always pay attention. It’s too easy to let your mind wonder. I know; I’ve done it.

    • purple dragon

      Stephanie, this is the poster-post for JD’s point! I have always wondered about sound operators and what they think about. Do you ever have the luxury of thinking about the quality of the songwriting and arranging, or only the recording quality?

    • Stephanie Nickel

      I’m a volunteer sound board operator at our church, so after practice on Saturday morning, I’m free to enjoy the music come Sunday – barring no unexpected technical problems. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to focus on the performance as a whole for pro operators.

    • John Fisher

      Stephanie, this is great! I always was a little in awe at sound technicians, they seemed to have so much to deal with all at once, and your description pretty much confirms that impression.

      It’s a thorough description without being too technical (a problem I fear my post for today may suffer from). Your writing here is approachable to anyone.

      A friend of mine, a singer, had one maxim: “Never p1ss off the sound tech!”

    • Stephanie Nickel

      Thanks, John. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on my post. A little technical know-how, an ear for music, and some basic training and the volunteer sound person is good to go.

    • James Hall

      You would write great tutorials.

  2. purple dragon

    Confessions of a New York City errand runner: bag selection
    determines success. For some missions, the thin one that folds up rather
    elegantly and hides in my purse till needed will do. But the clunky, sturdy
    oversized one with reinforced handles packs more can-do. With it, my purchasing limit is the strength of my legs and the strength of my debit card. The dirty dry cleaning and used printer cartridges go in, along with the grocery list and outgoing mail. I plan my route by weight, not geography, so that I will have
    the fewest possible steps with 3 bottles of wine, whole chicken, and quart of
    ice cream on my shoulder. The extra cubic inches encourage serendipitous
    indulgence: green market wasabi pickles, a street-vendor bracelet in my
    favorite color, fresh donuts for my son. My suburban sister may be more
    efficient: she drives around all Saturday morning and gets the whole week’s
    errands done, while I will need about 4 trips like this. I console myself with
    the idea that I live more extemporaneously, able to have meals inspired by
    something beautiful at the market. Maybe it’s just that I live more
    chaotically, but you should see my calves.

    • John Fisher

      ” . . . but you should see my calves.”! The humor makes this a very enjoyable read.

    • The Striped Sweater

      I can so relate, and I agree with John. Great use of humor.

    • Stephanie Nickel

      What a fun twist at the end! Now I want to wander around and get my groceries instead of heading off in my car.

  3. Lany


    Half a Conversation Overheard at the Beach

    ~ ~ ~

    Oh, my goodness! I can’t imagine life without seeing sunlight. You mean you’ve never seen sunlight in your whole life?

    ~ ~ ~

    Wow! But I guess it’s true: you can’t miss what you never really had.

    ~ ~ ~

    So, um, how would I describe sunlight? You want me to describe sunlight to you?

    ~ ~ ~

    Well, the sun has just come out from behind the clouds, so now everything is bright, cheery, encouraging, happy. Darkness from the storm clouds faded, and now it’s gone, banished to the shadows.

    I guess sunlight is soft, gentle, flowing; but at the same time it’s wild and exuberant. It’s alive, glowing, bursting with life.

    You see darkness, right?

    ~ ~ ~

    No? It’s just nothing? Well, that’s darkness. Nothingness in varying levels of thickness. Sunlight is the opposite of that. It’s filled with everything good. You see colors that come in shades and hues that defy the imagination. Of course there’s depth of color, too. Some colors are flat like paper. Some are shallow like cotton cloth, but some are so intense they draw you deeper and deeper into them, like plush velvet.

    And then there’s sparkle. I don’t think sparkle is really a color, but when sunlight sparkles on a gentle blue lake on a soft blue day, it awakens something deep within us. Like the majesty of a king or queen transformed into confetti and then allowed to float down on our hearts.

    Here. Hold out your hands. Good, now turn your palms down. What do you feel?

    ~ ~ ~

    That’s sand I’m slowly sifting onto your hands. Think of each speck of sand as a tiny bit of majesty confetti, and you’ll have an inkling of what sparking does to the soul.

    Yeah, I guess that’s the best I can do at explaining sunlight.

    ~ ~ ~

    Oh, but wait! There’s one more thing. Let me give you a hug!

    ~ ~ ~

    That’s it! Sunlight looks like a friendly hug feels!

    ~ ~ ~

    What did you say?

    ~ ~ ~

    I never thought of that before, but you’re right. That saying is wrong: you can miss what you’ve never had.


    • John Fisher

      I found this a wonderful lift to the spirit! I would imagine that the sighted individual found his/her own experience of sunlight enhanced by sharing it with someone who cannot experience it visually. The friendly hug is a nice touch too. Well done!

    • Lany

      Thanks so much, John. As I sat down to begin writing, not knowing which topic I would pick, the sun suddenly burst forth from behind a cloud and illuminated the world outside my window. That’s where the idea for this little story came from. I’m so glad you found it uplifting.

    • Emma Marie

      Makes me appreciate the sun! Wow-oh-wow, this is awesome! I love this, especially the colors 🙂

    • Lany

      Thank you, Emma! I enjoyed this writing exercise. Something that at first sounded mundane, turned out to be a fun challenge.

    • Stephanie Nickel

      Beautiful . . . just beautiful!

    • Lany

      Thank you, Stephanie!

    • James Hall

      I find this so very intuitive and inspiring. I’ve started a novel where the people have lived underground for centuries and have only heard of the sun in books. I find this makes me want to go write about it.

    • Sujata

      Beautiful narration of the sun light.

      I felt I must share these lines which I happened to read a few minutes back. It says – Tell me the story about how the sun loved the moon so much that he died every night to let her breathe.

    • Kate Muggleton

      I LOVE this. I could almost feel the colours and the sparkling light. Left me wanting more

  4. John Fisher

    It’s a, um, pedal steel guitar.

    How’s it tuned?

    It’s called the chromatic E-ninth tuning. Uh-huh. “Chromatic” refers to step-wise movement in music, and there are some strings that are tuned between the notes in a regular E Major chord, that make the tuning, sounded one string at a time rather than all together, more like a line of melody than a chord. If you’re familiar with the keyboard, the 10-string tuning runs, from highest to lowest string: F# above middle C – D# – G# – E – B – G# – F# – E – D – B. This aids in playing melodic runs as opposed to just chords all the time.

    The pedals? they change the pitch of certain strings, either to higher or lower, when you depress the pedal, and return them to the original pitch when you release it. These two pedals next to each other, depressed together, change a three-string chord from, for example G to C, depending on which fret you have your bar positioned. Yeah, this steel bar you hold in your left hand. Then there are these two knee levers . . .

    I know – sounds distressingly complicated. To learn it, you have to love the music that can be made on the instrument. As one of my fellow steel players once opined, you have to be a little strange in the first place!

    • Lany

      What an interesting insight into a part of your life. I never even knew such a thing existed. Makes me want to see a picture of one playing on a pedal steel guitar and to hear its music.

    • John Fisher

      Thanks, Lany. You can Google “pedal steel guitar” and see some good pictures, of the instrument itself and of people playing it. I just love the instrument and its sound.

    • Stephanie Nickel

      My hubby the musician would understand ever word. I, less knowledgeable about such things, would have to have the visual and audio input. (I’m a visual learner with a fairly basic understanding of music.)

    • John Fisher

      Understood. After I wrote this, I was afraid it would be too technical for people to get. But I do love that instrument. Thank you!

    • James Hall

      I play the piano and have a guitar with a broken string that I never could get tuned. If I ever get that string replaced, I know who to turn to for tuning help!

    • John Fisher

      You got it! 😉

  5. James Hall

    Want to write prose and what do I get? More poetry. Oh well.

    Black to blackest
    Whitest to white
    Dark to Darkest
    Lightest to light

    Hope to hopeless
    Silence to peace
    Heat to coldness
    The living must cease

    Fixed to broken
    Broken in me
    Eyes are open
    Too dark to see

    Chance to failure
    Failure to blame
    Pain to endure
    Always the same

    Pain to suffer
    Suffer to death
    Dump my coffer
    Suck out my breath

    Give my Token
    And cross the Sea
    For Depression
    Hath conquered me


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Say Yes to Practice

Join over 450,000 readers who are saying YES to practice. You’ll also get a free copy of our eBook 14 Prompts:

Popular Resources

Books By Our Writers

Share to...