I don’t know much about Jessica Simpson, I admit. However I have picked up, by osmosis probably since I don’t own a television, that she is an actress of some sort; previously the star of a reality program and not considered to be the sharpest of wits. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps she is an understated genius of comic drollery. A sort of Marilyn Monroe for the 21st century. Marilyn by the way, in my opinion never got her due- check out How to Marry a Millionaire. Re. Ms. Simpson. I don’t know. I just used her name because I’ve heard she is dumb and I wanted to make a point. Or ask a question.
Do you need to be smart to be a good writer? Or do you just need to have a way with words?
All the writers I know are clever people. They’re quick-witted, well-read, possessed of a mordant sense of humor, and usually aware of what’s going on in the world and up to date on pop culture (more so than I am but I’m not an American) but is it important? Is it necessary? Isn’t it more valuable to be able to recognize the big questions we face as humans in life and turn them into poignant stories? To be able to reach out through writing to everyone and do it in such a way that the reader says “yes, that’s me” or “I’ve felt those very same emotions before.”
Can you be as dumb as a cinderblock and still be a good writer?
I don’t see why not actually and I’m sure that some of the best-sellers out there are amazingly ordinary people who would bore you stiff if you sat next to them at a dinner party. And why shouldn’t they be?
Writing is a lonely pursuit. Long hours spent hunched over a computer or notebook or typewriter with nothing for company except for your own internal voice yammering away at you. We shouldn’t have to be the life of the party too. And is being inarticulate socially a sign of stupidity anyway? Of course it isn’t.
Somehow at the moment through a social internet network I am simultaneously playing eleven games of scrabble. I am getting my butt kicked on probably half of them and I am resenting the time away from writing because these days it seems as if I can’t summon up more than 50% brain power and 30% full concentration.
Off on a tangent here- when things are going well in the writing department I can completely immerse myself, become deaf and blind to everything around me and look up to find that three hours have passed and I have twenty pages of badly typed prose down and it is the most glorious feeling in the world. It happened quite often with the first book, and with my son who was a sedentary, play-with-the-toys in-front- of-him kind of baby, and not at all with my daughter (the Lucy Factor) who is more adventurous, death-defying and has made it her mission to fall off of every piece of furniture in the house. I have submerged a couple of times and come back to the surface snorting and gasping only to realize that she is no longer playing quietly on the carpet, feeding the dog her breakfast cereal, but has disappeared and is finally found playing splish- splash in the toilet. So anyway, I can’t do the total plunge because of her. Therefore concentration is a thing of the past or at least while she neglects to be intimidated and obedient when I tell her to “go play with your plastic vegetables and leave me in peace!” Yup. So we’re looking at about eighteen years of distraction, give or take.
So instead of giving what little time I have to the book I’m being waylaid. As soon as I’ve completed these games I’m going to give scrabble a rest.
Anyway I brought it up because the only way I can justify wasting time online is if it I can pretend it sharpens the brain. And the few minutes it takes to play is about the same length of time that the LF grants me. Time when she is absorbed in something of her own and I can almost pretend that I am alone.
There are some very clever writers out there. Not the kind who write books no one can bother to read because they are just too weighty but genuinely interesting, smart people who inspire and incite. I think it’s nice to expect a great deal from the writers we have put up on a pedestal. Yes, they must write well, but they must be clever and informed and witty too. They are our voice after all. Our voice as eloquent as we wish it could be.
Another tangent- I’m re-reading Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart books- Victorian adventure stories with a wonderful gutsy, passionate heroine and I cannot recommend them enough. The themes are pretty strong and graphic so I would say they’re perfect for kids 12 and older but of course, in my opinion, no child should ever be prevented from reading a book on the basis of age.