Does authority give someone credibility? I think the grand majority of people agree that it does.
Does it give someone default credibility regardless of the validity of their specific statements? I strongly assume that to be the case as well.
People tend to accept ideas and arguments more readily if they come from an authority figure, regardless if these ideas and arguments are themselves sound and valid, or complete hogwash. Precedents and past achievements give that person a buffer zone, and his opinions are attributed a greater weight than those of someone (yet) unknown.
But does the lack of authority automatically infirm someone’s credibility? Can it constitute an argument against the validity of that person’s opinions?
Don’t we often hear…
“Ah, don’t listen to her, she’s not published yet, she’s probably not even a “real” writer.”
“Who, him? Pshaw, he’s self-pubbed. Like he knows a thing about the publishing industry.”
“I’m not taking advice from someone who’s only written non-fiction. What do they know about true ART?”
And even something akin to…
“Mrs. Writing Coach said fantasy is best written in third person, past tense. I suppose my experimental manuscripts are all trash.”
“Oh, Mr. Stephen Rowling said novels with only two humongous chapters will revolutionize literature? What are we waiting for?!”
How often are people discredited simply because this is their FIRST moment in public? How often are they received with skepticism and even blatant disrespect simply because they don’t have a PRECEDENT of success? Regardless of the quality of their work, the validity of their advice, or the clarity of their perspective.
And how often is the nonsensical advice, regurgitated platitude or even the crass falsehood of someone taken as letter of law, simply because they have authority in one field or another?
The world is brim full—practically boiling over with know-it-alls, smartasses, and self-proclaimed experts (or gurus, ninjas, Jedi, and whatnot). It’s sometimes very hard to discern who’s making a good point, and who’s just foaming at the mouth. Previously established authority is certainly helpful in segregating sources of information. But we shouldn’t let ourselves be blinded by [perceived] authority—or the lack thereof—when we are confronted with new ideas.
We should ALWAYS have an open mind. That’s one of the most important characteristics a writer should have!
And I don’t just mean with regards to writing advice from unlikely sources. I mean all kinds or information, all sorts of conflicting opinions and sharp angles on things that have sunken into the comfortable background of our collective awareness. If only in the service of our own growth as intellectual beings… In the service of our research for the next great story, or in the service of our ability to remain flexible.
We should dare to go on adventures without a hand-drawn map of some public figure with a Pedigree. We’d be surprised how many others are exploring the wilderness beside us, and whose words actually make a damn lotta sense.