I can’t tell if Jon Mollison wrote his recent post “The False Façade of ‘Smart’ Writing” in reaction to this one of mine. I don’t think so, because (a) Jon seems like the kind of guy who would say so if he was, (b) we’re talking about two different things, and (c) I happen to agree with Jon here (emphasis mine):
Complexity is Not Clever
Anyone that’s ever dealt with higher level mathematics knows that the guys at the top of that particular field spend a great deal of time searching for ways to reduce complexities in their proofs. A concept that can be proved using 100 pages of matrices and high order differential equations is nice, but it’s so much more satisfying when the same concept can be proved using three simple equations? In the same way, a door stopper of a novel that chases six independent plot threads that interweave all over three continents to bring them together in one big final resolution can be satisfying, but it’s so much more satisfying when the same concepts and themes can be fully explored within the confines of a single story. Some of the most powerful mathematical proofs are the most beautiful.
Assembling complex tales require a lot of effort, but so does digging a ditch. We instantly recognize that effort doesn’t translate to brains in the latter, so why do so many want to believe that spending inordinate amounts of time and effort bolting extraneous details onto a simple exploration of a theme translates to proof of higher order intelligence? Particularly when the authors who brag of their epic achievements typically go on to brag about how hard it was to craft the story and track all of the little details. A case could be made that a straight-head writer who bangs out prose and plots by the seat of his pants would need eidetic memory and a level of creativity bordering on insane to build a tale like that, but most writers feel the need to humble brag about how extraordinarily hard they worked on their masterpiece, how much effort it took, and how long it took.
If you’re working that hard, maybe you aren’t as smart as you think you are, ace.
Well, I agree with him here. To be fair, I did discuss my writing process in my post, but it wasn’t to brag. In fact, a very good writer I respect very much described and recommended a very similar approach to me. And in fact, check out my last bullet point:
- Less is more. I’m always on the lookout for eliminating needless words, sentences, and paragraphs.
This is all by no means a humblebrag about how long writing took. I’m talking about a 90,000 word novel (that I pared down from 120,000 words) I worked on in my spare time, for God’s sake. I’m embarrassed by how long it took.
Jon makes another great point I happen to agree with (emphasis mine):
Adult Does Not Mean Smart
Another sleight of hand that the midwits like to pull to justify an inflated sense of worth is equating “adult” with “smart”, and it’s just as much bunk as the first. This is not to say that all adult media is always dumb, just that there exists a lot of space in the venn diagram where those two terms do not overlap.
Hell, most of the “adult” novels I’ve read were half-witted excuses meant to justify the author’s own inability to grasp the basics of morality, duty, and honor. But the nihilists among us have adopted a self-satisfied smugness that all too many people on the left hand side of the intelligence bell curve mistake for genuine ability, and they at least have enough cunning to wrap their bleak and ill considered worldview up in a nice little bow of “live for today and let tomorrow care for the consequences”.
But as for me, I’ll take genuine wisdom and intellect over the feigned superiority proclaimed with great volume and repetition by those who mistake influence and connections over talent and skill.
Even if that precludes me from winning any major awards or ever being listed in the annals of woke history.
I couldn’t agree more. I hate snark, nihilism, and moral equivalence as much as Jon. If you are an existential who thinks life is meaningless, there are plenty of French authors for you to read. Go be depressed and depressing somewhere else. I’d rather read about spaceships and swordfights, thanks.
Unrelieved bleakness, endless moral ambiguity, amorality, and immorality (Shock! Transgression!) are what angry teenagers think is “adult.”
To Jon’s last paragraph, the funny thing is I do consider Jon a top-tier writer. I also realize I don’t have a review of his novel Sudden Rescue on my blog! I could’ve sworn I reviewed it after I read it. This will need to be rectified.
Anyway, if Jon was referring to me and my slightly strident post, well, he has every right to do that. I would just find it strange since we seem to be of one mind on these things.
And if Jon wasn’t, then carry on as usual all of you.
Note: Normally, I’d just be leaving comments on Jon’s blog instead of writing reaction posts, but comments don’t seem to be working on his site for some reason.