Dumb is Good

Contrary to what they teach you in school, dumb can be very good for you. My writing career started because I was extremely dumb. If I were smart, I would have never done any writing. It all started when I applied for a job that I was not qualified for at all.

At the time, I was a teacher who was also working part-time as a wedding photographer. My wife noticed an ad in The New York Times seeking an editor for a newsletter about Nikon cameras. Since I was a photographer, owned Nikon cameras, and was looking for ways to make extra money, it seemed ideal. Never did I think that one should have any writing or editing experience before applying for such a job. The ad was somewhat unusual. Instead of asking for a resume, it asked three technical questions about photography. I answered them all and sent off my answers. This was back before email or even faxes.

About six weeks later, I got a call asking me to come in for an interview. The interview was with the editor-in-chief of Amphoto, the largest photography publisher in the world. Of course, he asked if I had writing samples. I didn’t. After chatting for a while, I mentioned that I was a wedding photographer. He said that he wanted a sample of my writing on wedding photography. At the time, Amphoto and Kodak were releasing an encyclopedia of photography, one volume at a time. The issue that would include wedding photography was not completed. I wrote the sample and they used part of it in the encyclopedia, and gave me credit as one of the editors.

Another interview was scheduled with the editor. I thought that we were going to discuss the job that I had originally applied for. Instead, he told me that they were in the process of releasing a series of books. He asked if I could write the book on wedding photography. I instantly said, “No problem.” He said fine and would send me a contract. When I got home, my wife asked me if I could really do it. My answer to her was a little different. I said, “I have no idea!” My Amphoto Guide to Wedding Photography came out a couple of years later.

It doesn’t end there. The editor suggested that I write an article for a newspaper — The New York Times. I laughed. He wasn’t kidding. He told me who edited the then weekly Camera Column that appeared in The Sunday New York Times. I sent in the article and was shocked a couple of weeks later when I saw it in The Times.

If I knew that you had to be qualified to apply for a job, I wouldn’t have ever written anything that was published. Dumb was very good.

Incidentally, I didn’t get the job. They said I was over qualified for it!