Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why EQ Is More Important Than IQ

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.


Christine said...

I cannot imagine writing romances without having empathy for others. I am not a loner, so when I come out of the writing cave, I need people.

It's through my people time that stories are generated, or nuances are added and layered into my writing.

Good luck getting all your work done and your submission off!

Tonya Kappes said...

PJ great blog! As a writer, I myself believe writing is both solitary and interacting with the world around them. Solitary b/c I write in my mind, I don't live with any other writers and it's hard for them to understand all the tenants in my!
But I agree that EQ is way more important than IQ. I can research and become knowledgable about something/subject I want to put in my novels, but if you can't connect emotionally with the settings, characters etc. then you won't put that connection in your book for your readers to feel.
They are both important, but EQ drives me.

Caren Crane said...

J, I have to admit that I tend to bury my EQ in a pile of IQ. It's not that I don't have it, but when you have a passel of siblings and, as a child, the older ones leap on any sign of sensitivity like jaguars on makes one a bit hesitant to emote, let's say.

I have had to work to reconnect with my inherent sensitivity, but it's hard to deprogram all those protective layers. I agree completely that our ability to connect with readers is what brings them back to our books again and again.

I have stopped reading one author because of the cavalier way her heroines treat friends and family in her books. It's not part of the heroine's growth arc either, it's just bad behavior that everyone around her forgives. I've met people like that in real life and didn't care for them, so why would I want to read about them? Then again, she's a bestseller, so someone must enjoy that. What do I know? *g*

This was a great post! We need to do a workshop on this one.

Anonymous said...

I agree that emotional quotient is more important IQ for the reasons you cited and that Christine said (the importance of empathy).

I also recall being turned off by one very famous author who essentially said don't bother writing me, I won't answer you because I get so much mail. We should all have that problem.

Great post.

Marilyn Baron

Debbie Kaufman said...

I recently found that when my IQ was showing in my WIP with certain vocabulary choices, those were the very words my Beta readers stumbled over and marked down!

J Perry Stone said...

"It's through my people time that stories are generated, or nuances are added and layered into my writing."

Oh man, I wish I had put that sentence in my blog, Christine. That's it right there--the crux of the matter.

J Perry Stone said...

Tonya, it is only other writers who understand the tenants in your head :)

It's interesting what you said about if you can't feel it, the reader won't feel it.

I've got goosebumps because I believe we're all so connected, if I feel a thing as I'm writing it (using my EQ); they'll feel it, as well.

I wonder about some scenes I've written where my heart seemed to have parked itself crossways in my throat.

Will readers feel that emotion as they read it?

J Perry Stone said...

Darling Caren, I absolutely disagree with you about you burying your emotions under IQ.

You're smart as hell, yes, but even that first paragraph in your comment is so chock full of EQ (and humor), I'm feeling you in my bones. You've said far more about yourself than I have about me in my whole blog.

And I totally relate to you even though burying EQ in IQ is not my personal MO.

I can't stand cavalier heroines. I like 'em full of shame when they do wrong and pissy when they've been wronged.

J Perry Stone said...

Marilyn, what is so entirely ironic is that it is the established authors who forget the power of their words.

One insensitive comment to the readers who make their careers possible, and we're gone.

J Perry Stone said...

Debbie, isn't that interesting? It's as if a pure show of IQ is separating (isolating) while EQ connects us ... even in writing.

Dianna Love said...

J - great topic. I am amazed when I encounter authors who say and do things that put off the very people who allow them to enjoy their dream of writing. I think it comes down to passion for what you're doing. Over the course of my life, I've only gotten deeply involved in something I was passionate about. When I hear an author whine about a reader who was infringing on their time I just say if you don't genuinely enjoy meeting people and hearing "their" stories (many readers need to share what's happening in their life) then don't leave the house. I think readers know if you're really interested in them or not and they are turned off by some blogs as mentioned above. I'm saddened when I see an author come across snarky or arrogant or just plain "tolerating" a reader.

Dedicated readers will travel great distances and go to a lot of trouble (getting off work, finding someone to watch their kids, etc) just to meet an author. That is SO humbling. The least any author can give back is sincere interest in meeting that person and not just sign the book, hand it back and move to the next person. That's why when Sherri and I sign we tell the booksellers we'll stay to the last one even if that means signing in the parking lot, which we've done in the past, but now the booksellers know to expect huge crowds and tell us they will stay open as long as we're there. I love the booksellers for doing that. my soap box. Can you tell that hit a nerve with me? "g"

Anonymous said...

Great blog, J and oh so true. I think a lot of new authors need to learn how to be approachable to their readers. No, they don't have to become bff's but nothing turns me off more than an author simply putting in their time rather than being in that time with their readers.

And I agree, it's that connectivenss that works to feed the words I write and some of the best prose I've ever read.


Maxine Davis said...

I loved this post - and it made me think. I got up really early, fell asleep in a chair and just now woke again and thinking so quick after snoozing? . . . Give me a minute.

Tonya, I agree with you. You have to connect emotionally with settings and characters.

I, too, vote EQ is more important in writing that keeps you turning the pages while laughing and crying. Oh I know it takes IQ to write, but I really look for the EQ

Enjoyed it JP

Carol Burnside said...

I also believe that EQ is a necessary ingredient in a novel. If the writer doesn't have it, the characters won't either.

Some would say I connect too easily to other's emotions. Heck, I cry at coffee commercials and those wonderfully sappy Hallmark ones too. Don't even get me started about how hard it is to write the emo scenes in my own books!

J Perry Stone said...

Diana, you of all people certainly have cause to be annoyed with those authors who whine about their readers, especially since you are beyond generous to your audience.

I understand how the topic might hit a nerve with you. Your example is one I hope to emulate after I'm published.

It's very obvious you think of each and every reader as an individual. You even consider their driving distances and childcare.

I want to do that, as well. I want to consider each reader like you and Sherilyn do.

J Perry Stone said...

San, you said an interesting thing. You said, "it's important for writers to LEARN to be approachable to their reader ..."

I think that's a good point. Approachability can be learned. It may easier for some, but everyone is capable.


J Perry Stone said...

Maxine, you crack me up (and gorgeous picture, btw).

I look for EQ too. I remember each and every book where I felt like the author had my heart in a vice grip. And I became a reader for life is she responded to me on some personal level (all the women at Squawk Radio, for example, as well as numerous others).

J Perry Stone said...

"Some would say I connect too easily to other's emotions."

To me, that's a clear-cut virtue, Carol.

And it's true. If a writer doesn't have it, the characters won't.

Cyrano said...

Very intewresting J.
I've never consciously thought about EQ, but now that you bring it up, I realize it's very important.
I happen to be a closet loner. I much prefer being by myself, away from people...and small children(I know,I know, I'm harsh)
But, when I'm in the company of friends, (neices and nephews) or even strangers I make sure I'm companionable, respectful and, well...nice for Pete's sake. Shouldn't we all?
And with this in mind, our novels should be stories of characters who are, well...nice too. I don't want to read a story about a bitch who doesn't LEARN not to be a bitch. I don't want to read a story about a dick who doesn't LEARN not to be a dick.
Growth is one thing, character arcs are needed, but a hero or heroine who come across as an ass for the duration of the story is quite another thing all together.
I'm sure that's why many of your commentors hinted at characters and even authors who are, well...dicks and bitches, and then mentioned they'd rather not suppot them.
Those are the stories and authors I don't want or intend on reading.
As you said, we need to inject kindness into our characters and make damn sure our own EQ is on that plane as well.
Like the old saying, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar and that goes for writing too.
Have a productive afternoon.

Janga said...

Great blog, J! And I agree with you that EQ is more important than IQ, not that I think IQ is unimportant.

I do think that what sometimes appears to be coldness is really shyness. I envy my extroverted friends who can talk to anyone and say exactly the right thing.

Linda Henderson said...

They are both important but EQ is vital for an author.

J Perry Stone said...

"As you said, we need to inject kindness into our characters and make damn sure our own EQ is on that plane as well."

Hella yes, Tamara. Have to say, though. It shocks me to think you might be anything other than the engaging extrovert I see at meetings and conferences. :)

Ya think maybe there's a bit of the hermit in all writers? I know I have it.

J Perry Stone said...

Janga, the absolute LAST descriptor I'd ever use on you is "cold."

I know you're shy. Would you believe me if I admitted I'm shy, too? I am. I'm gregarious to over-compensate.

But I would never--not ever in a million years--mistake your sensitive quietness for coldness.

You score mighty high on EQ (IQ too. I should really hate you ;)

J Perry Stone said...

Linda, EQ is vital, "vital" being the perfect word.

J Perry Stone said...

And I don't mind a little social awkwardness. I don't mind foot in mouth. I don't even mind uncomfortable pauses.

What I can't stand is an obvious indication that said author thinks she/he is superior to anyone else.

There are too many kind, talented authors out there for readers to put up with this kind of shit.

Anna Steffl said...

So, your post gets me going and I hop on the internet and take a couple EQ tests. I should be finishing revising my last chapters! Hell fire on you, JPS :-)

I think I'm Tamara's older sister!

J Perry Stone said...

Oooo, post the links, Anna.

And you should be revising your last chapters.

*I* should be revising my last chapters.

Tamara should be revising her last chapters.

(God, I love justified procrastination)

Susan May said...

I agree with you. EQ is important. I've heard a couple of authors and well known people speak and I'm not interested in them anymore. I try to go with the Golden Rule and the saying "What goes around comes around."

Cinthia Hamer said...

Evening everyone!

J, as we discussed on the phone, I'm another who thinks that EQ trumps IQ every time when it comes to authors dealing with their "fans".

I've witnessed too many occasions of authors being snippy or even downright rude to readers and even to other writers who might or might not be published (yet!).

It's not very nice and it's a surefire way to shoot yourself in the foot. Which leads me to say that an author who is lacking in the EQ department is also somewhat lacking in the IQ if they don't realize that the person they snub probably won't buy their books ever again--and will be sure to tell all their friends not to waste their money, either.

Nicki Salcedo said...

"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."

This is true for all humans, writers or not. I'm fatigue of people who don't try to understand others or fear that understanding might change them.

I've realized that it takes energy to be IQ. I've got it, not need to flaunt it. EQ is like breathing, it should come naturally, it should bring us peace and happiness for no good reason either!

I fully admit that I buy the books of a particular author because s/he is down right kind and giving. I don't overly care for the books, but I'm still a fan! EQ can sell books. :)

Kim said...

J-as always you are so insightful and spot on. You totally know how I feel about EQ and yes, I've stopped supporting authors I have seen behave badly.

Isn't it a given that you need to have EQ to write tender love stories? I think so.

Tami Brothers said...

Wow, JP. I totally learned something new. When you guys were talking about EQ before, I honestly had no idea what you were talking about. This is very enlightening. Thank you! Seriously.


Linsey Lanier said...

Great post, JP. You are a shining example of high EQ in my opinion. You always have a warm smile for everyone.

I think both IQ and EQ are important for a writer. But I agree EQ is more vital.

Thanks for the thought-provoking words.


Dianna Love said...

J - thanks for the kind words. I'm thrilled and honored to meet anyone who reads something I've written. I can't wait until ALL of you are published - the writing community is a better place for having the PFHT group.

Darcy Crowder said...

J - You've definitely hit on a hot topic. I'll admit that I've been turned off by an author because of the way I've seen her act/treat people. And on the other hand, like Nicki, I've supported one or two authors whose books are not my style, but I WANT to support them because they are such wonderful, giving people. There can never be too much good will in the world.

I'll tell ya, I've been painfully shy most of my life, quiet, content to be on the sidelines. But once I stepped out and proclaimed myself to be a writer, started GRW meetings, that's when I finally began to grow out of it. I'm so honored and priviledged to be counted among you ladies - to be surrounded by so much high EQ is truly a warm and welcoming place. :)

Ana Aragón said...


I finally got around to the post the moment I woke up in the morning, but life intruded and I didn't get back to the PFHT site until yesterday.

Thank you for this post. Staying up late at night talking about IQ vs EQ was enlightening! And I agree with everyone that your EQ is so potent it overshadows your very formidable IQ as well!

Bless you!


J Perry Stone said...

Susan, you've heard ME in a not so high EQ moment. Your continued kindness, however, has taught me a lesson :)

J Perry Stone said...

I agree, Cindy. I can't separate low EQ from iffy IQ.

Perhaps they aren't so mutually exclusive.

J Perry Stone said...

Nicki, that's a good point. I've bought books solely because of an author's EQ, as well.

And I've stopped for the same reasons.

With the internet making public very personal aspects of our personalities, EQ is vital.

And bitchiness comes through. Shy, I get.

Bitchiness, not.

J Perry Stone said...

Darcy, I agree with you good-will statement.

And would you believe I'm shy, as well?

I am. I score "introverted" and "shy" on a slew of personality tests.

I tell you, it's a good thing conferences aren't but a couple times a year :)

The stress makes me get cold sores every time.

J Perry Stone said...

Ana, I LOVED staying up late, talking with you.

You wear EQ like French perfume. Everyone can smell it ;)

J Perry Stone said...

Dianna, you're wonderful!

J Perry Stone said...

Linsey, it's easy to have a warm smile on my face when you're the one smiling at me first :)

J Perry Stone said...

"Isn't it a given that you need to have EQ to write tender love stories?"

I think it's romance LAW, Kimmie.

J Perry Stone said...

Tami, you didn't learn anything. You already are EQ-enriched!