Setting the Bar (Renamed, I'll explain why later)

>> Friday, December 3, 2010

Yes, I'm still busy writing and the end is not in sight (+45K words and counting). But I thought I'd pause to tell you why I've found this particular book so compelling.

I've been leading up to it, I think, for some time. I've skirted around it and flirted with the concept, taken away bits of it and put others in. I've written variations on the theme in almost every book I've worked on (if NOT every one). I wrote a multi-post review of mangas and somehow, I think, missed a key common denominator, one particular type of character that is endemic to my own work: the over-achiever who makes things look easy. There's one in every one of my favorite mangas (save two and they're barely among my favorites). They're in some of my favorite novels by others (Roarke, The Duke of Avon, any member of the House of Korval).

I've always been fascinated by people who did exceptional things as if it were easy, Mozart writing timeless music while still a youth, Baryshnikov who would look graceful falling down a flight of stairs, Feynman, Hughes, by a long list of people who made it look "easy" without getting famous. I've been fascinated not only by their abilities and thought processes, but by what they didn't have and their challenges (but that's another post).


Because I am one. I never took homework home in four years of high school. I could get it all done in and between class (I walked to/from school and hated carrying the books) [with the exception of writing research papers and I could have done that if I hadn't insisted in topping myself]. I could literally have been anything I wanted, gone into any into any scholastic field: history, English, foreign language, math, science, engineering. I don't joke when I say I'm an engineering physics graduate by accident (I could get a scholarship from both the college of engineering and and the physics department at the same time). Or, at least any field that didn't require motor skills, artistic talent or athleticism.

I don't think like anyone I've ever known, even people I consider equally intelligent. I don't see things the same, don't reach the same conclusions given the same data. I get more done in less time than anyone I've ever met, and I've met a great many productive people. I get, I kid you not, words like "machine" in my performance reviews routinely.

I know some of you are thinking, "Get over yourself, why don't you?" It's not like that. I'm not bragging. There's no merit in inherent logical ability; I didn't earn it. It just happens to be part of who I am like the curly dark hair and the really horrible fingernails made, apparently, of papier-mâché I have. I'm not better than other people. I'm just different.

I don't do everything better than other people. In fact, there's any number of things I suck at, like selling anything to anyone or remembering names. But I don't believe in false modesty. Nor do I consider it arrogance to know and say what I can do. If I tell you I can do it, you can take that to the bank. And I know first hand how hard it is for people to understand that having it easy doesn't actually make it easy. All my life I've heard "Well, everything's so easy for you," as if really was. It's surprisingly difficult, having "everything easy." There's always a price (but that's another post).

That's why I'm so excited about Dylan Chroz. I've never had a character that reflected so completely the way I think, the way I feel, the world as I've seen it. Oh, he's different than I am in many ways, better in many ways, backwards in others. I've loved writing him and that's why this has been so exciting for me.

Or, like many things, maybe that's just me.

Update 12/4/2010: I read this and it scares me a little. I can feel how this sounds, so off-putting when my intent is anything but. But I don't know how to say it more effectively. Will I alienate people rather than reach them on how it is to be me? As always, language is too limiting. I wish I could put a portal in my forehead so I could pass what I mean along to people in a way they could understand. (I've actually written one in one of my incomplete novels).

Or would my unusual thought processes thwart that, too?


  • The Mother

    I can certainly relate. But there are downsides to that character--we tend to be judgmental of others who "just don't get it" as quickly as we do, or who don't think clearly.

    And we tend to put our foot in our mouths because we don't understand that other people don't think like we do.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Agreed. Without caveat. There's always a price. I think that's part and parcel of various forms of genius, not just "smarts." The ones you list, and more.

    I don't often say, "I'm a genius" like I did here partially because people take it as conceit. I'm often surprised how frequently people will pick it up automatically when I speak to them, which either means my vocabulary and speaking methods are distinctive enough as "brainy" or I come across more arrogantly than I intend. Maybe both. I cannot stress sufficiently how unpopular I have always been and remain to this day.

    I intend, actually, to touch on a number of potential downsides of genius in general and ones like Dylan (and myself) in particular.

    But I'm writing, too. Put in a full day of work, entertained friends and cranked out this blog post and >5K words on "Saving Tessa" yesterday. Blog posts will have to be spread out.

    There's a reason I never get enough sleep.

  • flit

    more fascinating than off-putting, I thought.

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