As I was going through the tedious process of editing (or rather, my editor was going through the tedious process of editing) my book, a strange feeling began to take root. I realized how little I knew about the mechanics of the craft. Anything that I knew about writing, I learned by doing. That is what knowledge is, after all. We acquire knowledge everyday. In life. In school. And, for me, learning has always been a fairly easy thing. I’m an intelligent person. Or so I’ve been told. Unfortunately, intellect has very little to do with knowledge.
Don’t believe me? Here’s something to chew on. While it’s not surprising to hear that Albert Einstein had an IQ of 161 points, putting him well into the genius category, you might be surprised to know that James Woods, the actor, has an IQ of 180. Let’s take a minute here. I can already hear some of you saying “That’s insane. There is NO WAY that James Woods is smarter than Albert Einstein.” I didn’t say that. I said that James Woods has a higher IQ. Meaning, his capacity to learn is higher.
And therein lies the problem. Sometimes, when a person is lauded for their intelligence, they mistakenly confuse knowledge and intelligence. Intelligence, unlike knowledge, is inherent. It can be measured, quantified, and labeled using an IQ test. The very comprehensive IQ tests, such as the Stanford Binet Scale, is an exhaustive test. It is usually performed at a very young age. Unlike tests that measure your knowledge, such as the SATs, ACTs, LSATs, and all the other “Ts,” the Stanford is not designed to pass. It is a measurement of your capability—your capacity to learn.
In the writing community, there are many knowledgeable and intelligent people. Authors. Editors. Marketing wizards. The list goes on. No matter how intelligent you are, you can’t know everything. Someone has to teach you. Guide you.
In my case, especially during the editing process, I had to set my ego aside and take the suggestions I was given. That sounds easy. Right up until the time you have to do it. Begrudgingly, I looked at my book and realized that my thoroughly thought out masterpiece would need to be overhauled. That is where a greater capacity to learn, and an inherent ability to learn quickly, is a plus. I took the advice of someone that I trusted and did a thirty module “bootcamp” on how to write a novel. Funny, since I’d already written a novel. Or three. When I finally got around to the actual edit, it made the process so much easier. I am still learning everyday. Little things and big things.
So…whether you’re one of those people who learns things at the speed of light, or it takes you a little longer, it’s important to stand aside and do the work. In the end, sometimes the person with the higher intellect will find it harder to make the journey. Because they’re fighting it. Would you rather be a exceptionally intelligent person with a mediocre book, or someone that is not as gifted with a brilliant masterpiece? I would choose the latter. Every day of the week, and twice on Sunday. Fortunately, I didn’t have to choose. I stepped aside and relied on knowledge. My own, and the people I trusted.