How to accept your inner idiot

Recently, a dear friend confided in me that he feels stupid and way over his head whenever he talks to people who are in the field he wants to switch into. This is mostly because he doesn’t know all the jargon or references yet. Here are two tips I gave him:

1. Write down the words and references you don’t know.The first time I told someone I wanted to be a writer, she started listing all of her favorite authors and asking me what I thought of them. I didn’t know a single one of them, and I felt like a fraud who had just been caught. Since that day, I always carry around a notebook (now I use the Keep It app on my phone), and when someone mentions an author I don’t know, I simply write it down and tell them that I will check it out. Instead of getting wrapped up in self-doubt, I take a pro-active step towards building my knowledge, plus it gives the other person an ego boost. Making it clear that you’re eager to learn something new is the difference between curiosity and ignorance.

2. Give yourself some time. Vocabulary has nothing to do with intelligence, it has everything to do with exposure. My mom uses the word pulchritude all the time. One day I casually used it in conversation and a friend of mine looked at me like she suddenly realized she had underestimated my intelligence. I didn’t actively build up my vocabulary, I just kept hearing that word. The longer you are in a particular field, the more you’ll know the vocabulary that goes along with it. Don’t think for a minute that you’re not capable of doing the work if you don’t know every term that’s thrown at you – in a few weeks, you’ll be throwing that word around too.

12 comments

  1. As I like to say: Why use a short word when you can use a perfectly viable polysyllabic etymological variant?

    I recently made the jump to becoming a screenwriter and have almost no idea as to who has written my favourite movies…I can name actors and directors, but know practically no screenwriters. As you say, cut yourself some slack and take your time. Oh, and educate yourself.

    Thanks for your post…Randy

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    1. Hi Randy,
      I took an intensive screenwriting class, and on the first day the teacher asked us to name our favorite movies. We were all ready with our answers. Then he asked us to name the screenwriters for our favorite movie, and not a single one of us could answer. He then said, “welcome to one of the most under-appreciated professions.”

      I’m sure you know this site already, but I always use http://www.imdb.com/ to look up screenwriters.

      Thanks for leaving a comment 🙂

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  2. I have seen very intelligent people do the stupidest things. I sometimes think I have intelligence and then my stupidity reminds me that I am not. Common sense is on the extinction list as we grow dumber and dumber.

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  3. Pulchritude was on my list of words that sound as if they couldn’t possibly mean what they do. Refulgent, cupidity, nonflammable and phlegmatic were also on that list!

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    1. Phlegmatic makes absolutely no sense to me. I think these words should be stricken from the English language – words are meant to make communication easier, not more confusing.

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  4. Pulchritude sounds like an antonym for what it actually is. I am now placing this word in my list to use whenever the opportunity presents itself. I expect I’ll get a funny look. Great advice, btw …

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