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  • Kier McDougall

When do we know what we're talking about?

It takes moments of introspection to realise that, just maybe, we don’t know what we’re talking about; that we might just not get it at all. Maybe these moments are rare for some, but fortunately (or unfortunately) I spend a lot of time within the confines of my mind.

I’ve only been writing for four years. I’m halfway through both my first manuscript and my undergraduate degree. Why should anyone listen to what I have to say?

I can’t give you an honest reason. I imagine very few of us can. Perhaps it’s because we feel we have something interesting to say, something assured which can alter any conversation. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to awkwardly retract something I’ve said while simultaneously trying to save face.

Is it an age thing? I can’t help but wonder, if the reason we can’t possibly know what we’re talking about is simply down to how many years we’ve lived. But can it be that simple? Does Occam’s Razor even apply in a situation like this?

There I go again, pretending to know what I’m talking about.

For the writer, it would seem that the question intersects with research. The belief that a certain writer doesn’t know what they’re talking about seems to be most apparent in the accompaniment of difficult subject matter. And the intensity of the interrogation is usually proportionate to perceived execution. But that’s a whole other blog, and it’s been weeks since I touched my manuscript. What do I know?

It’s entirely possible that every sentence I’ve written for this blog is the result of overthinking small, meaningless things, and waffling on about them. Not that I think that, of course, but even your most random thoughts can be inspired by something, consciously or otherwise. In my head, I often posit counterpoints to the things I believe in, consciously or otherwise.

I wonder if my insight actually counts for anything. I genuinely feel I have learned experience, but sometimes it does seem odd that I can dole out advice when my struggles are so much smaller compared with others. There is a privilege here, however dubious I consider its influences on my daily life.

I think I have a leg to stand on, and I imagine that is how most everyone would feel if they were to ponder the question with the depth I have. We learn more as we move along, and it fills out more of the body that represents what we know. So, one day we may have two legs to stand on. Then an arm, then another, and so on.

I feel like I’ve lost that analogy, but I think its essence is that we can definitely know what we’re talking about. As for when – maybe it’s even simpler than age. Maybe that body just suddenly clicks into coordination, and boom, we know what we’re talking about.


This blog entry is the final part (part 6) in a blog series by Kier McDougall, titled “Loose Threads“.

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