The Writer and the Coder

I imagine the IQ required to get a short story published in the journal Asimov’s Fiction excludes 98% of the educated* population, but the pay of 7-8 cents a word (around $700 for a 10,000 word short story) is not so great. The same for ‘mid list‘ writers, who are published and have sales, but make a low-middle class income from their work. According to the IQ/profession conversion table, if graduating college requires an IQ of around 115, I imagine the threshold be a successful author is much higher, which agrees with this data that shows that doctors, writers, and graduate engineers have a the second-highest IQs by profession (108-129), bested only by professors and CEOs. So to become a published** fiction author probably requires an IQ >130, which would exclude 98% of the population.

By contrast, a job that requires only average intelligence and pays $12 an hour nets around $1,900 a month, so the sci-fi writer would need to churn out three masterpieces a month to equal the income of a pencil pusher. Making matter worse for the writer, he has to keep coming up with new stuff whereas the pencil pusher just performs the required work to get paid – and no more.

The other extreme is coding, which requires a high IQ but pays very well. In either case – from the writer to the coder – personal fulfillment comes from the recognition and respect that comes from doing something few people are smart enough to do. Income for the sake of income also garners respect, but only if it’s a lot of money and the person lives a minimalist lifestyle instead of flaunting the wealth. Also, having a unique personal story that conveys authenticity helps a lot, too. Narratives and stories – stories of student loan debt to major in something smart, living hand-to-mouth as a published writer, the insufferable encounters with dumb people that inevitably arise when you’re smarter than average, the trials and tribulations of being a coder – is the conduit for which respect and recognition flows. A sort of Machiavellian rationalism in millennials whereby the ends (wealth, recognition) justifies the means.

* How we define ‘education’ is pretty much obsolete. A 4.0 high school GPA and AP courses doesn’t get you very far these days. Now you need professional degrees, and that’s often not good enough. Too many people who graduate college don’t have any marketable skills and can barely write a cogent sentence.

** By published I mean by a publishing house, not the trash heap that is Amazon self-publishing.