Quandary. Thursday, Jul 26 2007 

I’ve never quite come to a conclusion about whether it’s a good or a bad thing for a writer to include their own lives in their work; on the one hand it can be disruptive and disingenuous, on the other hand it can be charming and unexpected. Looking at my own work, some of my favourite touches are little observations or incidents from my own life that I’ve manipulated and turned into part of the story. They’re things my imagination would never have come up with on its own. I’m quite sure that if I took them out the whole story would be a lot more mechanical; on the other hand, are they supposed to be there at all? Maybe they just mean so much to me because I’m biased about them; maybe I should only write about stuff that I can see objectively.

The big risk I’m taking with the book I’m writing is that I don’t know whether readers will assume that I am the narrator. The set-up makes perfect sense to me; the narrating is narrating the book, ergo they’re the one writing it, ergo the narrator is a writer. Isn’t it perfectly logical to have a narrator who is also a writer? I always find it annoying when a narrator shows no literary tendencies. But then I think people will assume the narrator’s writing experiences are my own autobiographical experiences.


The pros and cons of being self-indulgent. Tuesday, Jul 24 2007 

I keep re-reading my entries and finding embarrassing spelling and grammar errors. I don’t care that much though – spelling and grammar can always be corrected, whereas bad ideas can’t. I’m mostly just trying to get ideas down here.

I while ago I wrote about the importance of refraining from self-indulgent little jokes. Page two of a local book I picked up last week reminded me that it’s just as important to refrain from self-indulgent little rants. The author intruded on his own writing to mention how much contempt he has for people who watch reality television. The author justified this intrusion by having a disingenuous little tangent. I think the author’s hate for reality television was so strong that he couldn’t resist from mentioning how much he hates it, but really, if you can’t refrain from this impulse than perhaps you should be writing an opinion column instead. I don’t read opinion columns either.

On the other hand, it can be entertaining to read about someone’s dislikes if they’re writing about it in an entertaining and satirical way rather than blunt and artless. I loved the self-indulgent ‘revenge against queue-jumpers’ scene at the beginning of the first episode of 30 Rock. Once again, it’s all just a matter of judgement.

Apparently some writers try avoiding the comma altogether. Saturday, Jul 14 2007 

At work they sometimes play this song that has an extremely deliberate and ponderous nature to it – I could easily imagine a bunch of Westies swaying back and forth while listening to it, but no one could ever actually dance to it. It’s frustrating to listen to because the rhythm seems to interfere with my flow of thinking.

I feel the same way about commas. I first noticed how annoying they can be when a couple of extremely long books by the same writer featured this rhythm in a high proportion of the sentences. It would have a first half broken by a comma, and then there would be the second half. Then it would say something else, and then it would say something else. Then it would say something else, but then it would say something else.

It creates the same kind of ponderous rhythm that the Westie song has and it almost made the books too unbearable for me to read. Sentences are very versatile thing; they can dance this way – and skip back again, all beautifully choreographed. There is not need, for ponderous commas. In this same, repetitive format. It dulls the mind, and kills the music of reading. Unless they’re trying, to make you fall asleep. Break it up please, with semi-colons. Or hypens, or sentences with no comma at all. You don’t blink every two seconds, so why use a comma that often?

Writers’ Quotient. Wednesday, Jul 11 2007 

I’ve decided to branch out a little and write about things that are only tenuously related to the topic of literature. This is a rant I wrote in a forum somewhere, but I think it applies to great writers as well as great people:

I don’t pay much attention to IQ any more — I’ve met so many highly intelligent people who have made so many incredibly stupid decisions, or who have a habit of being deliberately stupid. Or who are just plain obnoxious or arrogant, and therefore will never contemplate the possibility that they are ‘wrong’ about something.

Just because someone can figure out what number comes next in a sequence doesn’t mean they’re able to comprehend the emotional complexity of a human being. They’ll hurt someone’s feelings and blame it on that person’s intellectual inability rather than their own emotional drawbacks.

The problem with Mensa is that they’re too arrogant to consider that their tests don’t actually measure the most valuable characteristics of human beings — they’re too busy being self-satisfied about their reasoning abilities that they don’t want to know that they aren’t actually the highest rung of the human ladder, that being able to empathise with another human being is equal to or more important than their own abilities.

Which makes them a bunch of deluded idiots — and idiots, as we all know, are not geniuses.

IQ needs to be measured alongside EQ to mean anything substantial. People with high IQs aren’t necessarily capable of the genuine self-sacrifice, empathy, patience, understanding, altruism and humility that are the REAL virtues of a great human being.

The reason those great people don’t devise their own form of MENSA is that they realise the sheer hubris of forming your own exclusive society.