On Being a Generalist

Recently at work I was talking with someone about what kind of work I enjoy most and what interests me most, and I came back to my usual knee-jerk moderate position: I find it hard to want to narrow my focus too much because I like the variety, I am interested in things on a wide span of the spectrum, and so on. The person said, yeah, of course, “you’re such a generalist,” you do it all. This wasn’t intended as a bad thing, but it was a comment that stuck with me.

Am I a generalist? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

I suppose I am. I do have diverse interests. I like to read theologians, pastors, mom bloggers, public policy wonks, social justice advocates,  football message boards, minority perspectives on politics and culture, and The Onion. I like things that are funny and things that inspire me, stories that are true and stories that ring true. I want to know what we can learn from the great minds of the past and what’s trending on Twitter. I don’t feel much need anymore to act like “high culture” is better than “pop culture” or pretend I’m above the latter. I’m an idea and information junkie but not a book snob.

I think mostly this is a good thing. It has helped me be able to edit a wide variety of books and enjoy the diversity. On the other hand, though, no one can be an expert in everything, and I do feel that there are some things I used to know a lot about that I’ve lost my expertise in a bit as my interests have changed or broadened. Part of that is due to changes in life stage, mainly parenting, which brings up a host of new issues while reducing the time in which to sit around and ponder them (although many you do spent a lot of time actually acting on some of them!).

In fact for now I am actually working on broadening my generalities even more, focusing more on fiction these days. I think that’s a good thing–generally speaking!

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