The six essential traits every writer must have

Dali's mustacheAccording to the semi-famous writer, fake expert and shiller of Mac products, John Hodgman — not to be confused with John Hodgeman, inventor of alligator pants — there are six essentials that “every writer must have at his command.”

  1. empathy
  2. the willingness to endure solitude
  3. the belief the world cares about what you have to say
  4. the ability to describe facial hair accurately
  5. a large desk in a quiet room in which to chase your demons (preferably a circular room, so that the demons have no place to hide)
  6. special stationery with pictures of typewriters and/or quills on top
  7. and if you have purchased the audiobook version of his complete world knowledge, then you will know writers also require their own theme song.

Far be it for me to quibble with a writer of his vaunted semi-fame and success. (I hear he has his own high-speed zeppelin, and everything.)

As I have neither a zeppelin, nor a theme song, you may feel it presumptuous on my part to try and correct him in any way, but I feel he is wrong on two counts. In most respects, this is an excellent list, and though I desire a theme song, the lack of one has yet to prevent me from writing. When I have reached his level of success, I assume that a theme song will happen to me, as a matter of course.

Karl-Heinz HilleOn the subject of hackneyed stationary, complete with an image of a quill, typewriter, or any other kind of writing device (I hear J. D. Salinger had a chisel and mallet on his letterhead), this is completely absurd. We’re living in a digital age. Nowadays, writers should have a website with an image of a quill, or typewriter. (Monkeys will do, but only if a significant portion of your writing is humorous in intent, if not actual fact.)

Hodgman’s list is woefully inaccurate regarding the important subject of silly hats. This is de rigueur for every writer who has any aspiration of ever being successful. I suspect he left it off his list because of his extraordinarily large cranial circumference, which makes it difficult to fit a silly hat of any kind.

Though if he is still looking for one, I believe he would do well with a fez, or perhaps a bellhop hat. (Both can be perched easily on the swollen melon of a giant-headed writer.)

I would also add that the ability to count is irrelevant.

And yes, the gent pictured above is sporting a spectacular Partial Napoleon III Imperial, with Faux Friendly Chops (using the Dreickland swoop, of course). I knew you’d get it.

Alltop is still working on stubble. John Hodgman’s site is here, and you will note: no images of typewriters. You can find a helpful Beard Type Chart here, and historical background on beards at the ubiquitous wiki link. And my apologies to all pogonophobiacs for this beard-filled post. Originally published October, 2010.

The long course of civilization


Knowledge enlightens -- rays of moonlight on open book

“With the collapse of totalitarian empires, we believed that living together, peace, pluralism, and human rights would gain the ascendancy and the world would leave behind holocausts, genocides, invasions, and wars of extermination. None of that has occurred. New forms of barbarism flourish, incited by fanaticism, and with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, we cannot overlook the fact that any small faction of crazed redeemers may one day provoke a nuclear cataclysm. We have to thwart them, confront them, and defeat them. There aren’t many, although the tumult of their crimes resounds all over the planet and the nightmares they provoke overwhelm us with dread. We should not allow ourselves to be intimidated by those who want to snatch away the freedom we have been acquiring over the long course of civilization.”

~Mario Vargas Llosa
“In Praise of Reading and Fiction.” Nobel Lecture, 2010

Photo by Insane Capture on Flickr.

Selected Media Fads Through the Ages

Von Willendorf venus statue, circa 24,000 bce

24,000-22,000 BC: chunky fertility goddess statues (pictured at right: notice the prominent and large brains.)

10,000 BC: cave painting

4,000 BC: ziggurat construction

3,000-1,250 BC: pyramid raising (later revived by Mesoamericans and I.M. Pei)

1480-1700: Witch burning

1500s: homoerotic sonnet writing

1600s: pirate singing

1700s: pamphleteering

1760-1762: spreading syphilis

1790s: opera

1800s: novel-writing

1900-1914: being optimistic about the future

1919-1922: cutting up pieces of paper and pulling them out of a hat, also, painting

1925: jazz music

1927: soap-based radio

1933: burning books (mostly in Germany)

1951: find-the-commie (kind of like peek-a-boo, but with Senators)

1964: screaming (usually Beatle-related)

1966: TV

1976: disco

1977: DIY pet rocks

1982-1988: taking odds on Reagan-related nuclear holocaust

1987-1997: making answering machine messages (see below)

1998: web sites about your cat

1999: cappuccino drinking (related to dot-com bubble)

2000: looking forward to the future (this didn’t last as long as the previous fad in this genre)

2003: Friendster

2004-2005: blogging

2006: MySpace

2007: Facebook

April 2008: Twitter

2009 (Jan.-Aug): talking/writing/broadcasting about Twitter in MSM.

2009, Sep. 15: Blogging (again, briefly, but only about Dan Brown’s latest “masterstroke of storytelling”

2010 (Jan.-Feb.):getting really excited about the release of the iPad.

2010 (Mar.-May): trying to remember what all the fuss about the iPad was all about.

Answering machine messages: the most important creative outlet of the nineties!

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Video here if it doesn’t beep. (via)

Alltop and enjoys their Bebo. From my collection, Pirate Therapy and Other Cures.