by J Perry Stone
To begin, there is no question intellectual ability is necessary when navigating the long road to published authorhood. I maintain, however, that a writer needs more EQ than IQ, especially if she ever hopes for a truly rewarding career.
Emotional Quotient (EQ): the measure of a person's adequacy in such areas as empathy and in dealing sensitively with other people.
To paraphrase, EQ is pretty much about other people while IQ is more about you.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard authors discussing how solitary the life of a writer is. I picture them holed up in their offices, tapping away at their keyboards, with nothing but their characters and a can of coke for company.
Oh to be the brilliant scribe with so much genius fueling the noble craft.
So much talent and intelligence.
… so much opportunity to develop social ineptitude.
When I think about it, I'm not convinced writing is very solitary because EQ must come into play on so many different levels. Even before an author can bang out a scene, she must observe interaction around her and participate in it if she ever has a hope of expressing genuine emotion through her words. As she’s arranging such words, she must always consider those reading them if she has the smallest chance of holding their attention.
Beyond the book, an author must network. EQ is a must as she may be required to work with agents, editors and marketing departments filled with personalities that don’t necessarily meld with her own. She must consider other people’s feelings, be aware when work-loads threaten civility, have a sense when she may be asking too much. She must bear in mind the needs of her family, friends and writing partners. Lastly, especially in the age of internet, an author must connect with her audience on some personal level via a bevy of electronic avenues if she intends to build loyal readership.
All of this is possible with EQ because it’s all about considering others. EQ flips a switch in our minds, focusing our attentions outward instead of inward. It even helps to buoy creativity as thinking about writing for others extricates you from the quagmire of self-criticism. This, by the way, makes for higher productivity.
EQ even has the power to transform negative experiences into positive ones. Knowing how to respond to criticism while considering the person giving it is a function of high EQ.
As for my own experience with IQ vs. EQ, I’ve actually stopped buying a writer’s books because she belittled readers then insulted others who stood up for them. And there was no question. She certainly had plenty of IQ (going so far as to post the education portion of her resume on her “about author” page), but she came across so superior and arrogant in her website blogs, I had serious questions concerning her EQ. Don't get me wrong. I fully admit she is still a talented word-smith, but that simply is not enough. I cannot bring myself to subsidize her career when there are so many talented and kind authors to support.
Now turn the tables. If, as aspiring authors, we fail to develop our EQ--our sensitivity to readers--such readers will have similar say in our careers.
In the end, EQ is about relationships and I don’t know of one area in life where valuing relationships is not of utmost importance. IQ will certainly help us with our writing endeavors, but it is EQ that determines our staying power, as well as our contentedness.
So how about you? Do you think EQ is more important than IQ? Have any examples to share? How does EQ affect your writing?
In keeping with our spooky theme this month, consider this terrifying scenario: the EQ-challenged writer/boss/neighbor/relative.