On the Ethics of Writing

The ethics of writing go beyond the steadfast rules: don’t plagiarize, and use proper citation. Ethics involves being conscious of the process and honing a respect for the craft, whether or not you are a writer. The devaluation of writing has come because of the new emphasis of writing for robots (like Google crawl bots), and also because writers themselves are perpetuating the idea that writing is less valuable than other skills.

After working as a freelance writer, and obtaining positions through an online third-party platform, I have obtained some new views on the ethics of writing. The current freelance community may well lean towards profit rather than the deliverance of quality pieces of writing, thereby encouraging the idea that writing should be cheap and quick.

Writing, photo by Brannon Naito

Ghostwriters have ghostwriters.

Though it may seem unbelievable, some ghostwriters actually have ghostwriters. This means that ghostwriters obtain a position based on their merits and then turn the job over to another ghostwriter. Since freelance writers are hired based on their experience and the material that they present to the potential client, offloading the work to another ghostwriter altogether places no innate “value” on the individual that a client hires. The client is just another step removed from the source of the written piece.

There’s something to be said for ghostwriting too. While a valid occupation, the concern lies with writing for those who exploit the function of the ghostwriter and underpay for the product. Mainly this applies to individuals who have a reputation as an author, like a New York Times Bestseller (which I have seen hiring ghostwriters). The author who hires the ghostwriter uses the name as a brand rather than an attachment to his or her own labor.

Writing, photo by Brannon Naito

The 40K.

I see many ads seeking “someone who can write 40,000 words per month.” I have spoken about this before: writers have a moral responsibility to produce work of quality. To simply be able to write a given number of words per month does not mean creation of good writing. And this is not the intent in those situations; that’s why the internet is bloated with bad content.

Writing, by Brannon Naito

Writers are the ones who have created the writing market as it is. It’s not clients who have devalued the writer. When some writers devalue their work, the implications stand for other fellow writers. A self-undervaluing writer is not isolated, he or she is making a statement about the worth of their production, whether by pumping out high-volume-little-value work, or hiring a ghostwriter for their ghostwriting position. Writers have a responsibility to represent themselves as valuable through excellent word-smithing and ethical practice.

How to Make Everything Easy

We say that a lot of things are difficult. Uncountable hoards of blog posts about writing state in the first paragraph how hard it is. The same goes for getting in shape, getting the career of your dreams, accepting rejection, and so on. This is not reality; this is a perception of reality. In truth, if something seems hard, there are probably some other factors at play that we’re failing to address. If nothing is hard, then why does it feel so hard? I’ve compiled some reasons why situations seem difficult below.

photo by Berlian Khatulistiwa

It’s against my sense of ethics.

If you’ve ever been at a job where you were asked to do something you consider unethical, you surely feel your moral compass chime in. The moving pieces of ethically create a situation of difficulty in which you have to take into account your seeming dependence on a job for money, and your deeper, truer self.

photo by Berlian Khatulistiwa

I don’t believe in it.

Many times, things only seem hard because we’re participating in things that we don’t believe in. Beyond an ethical sense, we simply aren’t invested in the thing, whether emotionally, monetarily, or otherwise. For something to be easy, no matter how difficult other people say it is, you must believe in it.

photo by Berlian Khatulistiwa

I’m subconsciously protecting myself.

There may be times when we can’t pinpoint quite why a situation feels difficult, and in those times, our subconscious may have come into play. Though we may not be aware on a conscious level, our true selves may be peeking in periodically to warn us or remind us to be cautious.

photo by Berlian Khatulistiwa

I don’t completely understand the situation.

Much difficulty surrounds simple ignorance. If we do not understand a situation, we may default the experience as “difficult” in our minds. We pre-label experiences before we have challenged our beliefs about a situation.

There are ways to make things easy.

To make situations easy, we must come into them with a clear sense of our moral and ethical boundaries. On top of that, we must have a definitive sense that we may tend for pre-judging situations. We can recognize that the brain labels even before we have the opportunity to become aware that it has done so.

To render something easy, we need to look inward, as well as gather information about the situation itself. Not all things are meant for all people, and difficulty could well be a signifier to the individual that something is off about the situation. Too often, we label things as difficult with the assumption that all things are difficult, and without regarding that there may be another element at play.

If we are in a situation that we hardly have control over, and there is difficulty to it, it may serve us well to continuously remind ourselves how easy it is.

If we believe that something difficult, it will be. Changing our mode of thinking about a situation will elucidate the situation itself and make it easier to manage. Difficulty is a state of mind. In the face of perceived difficulty, we are called on to be more creative, imaginative, and more in tune with ourselves.

Organized Passivity

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” – Noam Chomsky

The species has ultimately cornered itself into acceptable reactionary constructs. This meaning, man has created categories that are socially acceptable to protest. I’ll refer to the phenomenon as Organized Passivity. We have socially defined the items that one can have an emotional reaction to. Further, we’ve made pretense that some of these causes have intellectual basis where they are lacking grounds in logical reasoning. You may see many examples of this on Instagram and other social media platforms, where you see continuous and repetitive battles within very strict terms.

Passivity, photo by Isak Dalsfelt

Whole social media accounts are dedicated to fighting very specific “causes”, of which nearly all of the followers have emotional attachment to varying degrees. When an outsider or opposer crafts a comment that is not agreeable to the primary view, the outsider is made into a display of non-conformity. There are polarized communities surrounding often overly-simplified arguments and encouraging defined socially acceptable opinions. These are troupes of people waiting to respond to any deviation of an organized belief. To have an unpopular opinion is to be chastised. To shame a contributor to a conversation is to receive praise from the majority.

We define which fights to have. We legitimize causes through means of popular agreement to engage. This is Organized Passivity.

Passivity, photo by Isak Dalsfelt

If we engage in a constructed fight for the purpose of inclusivity, we render ourselves passive. If we concentrate our emotions around only those categories of acceptable emotional triggers, we render ourselves passive. We may do well to ask ourselves the next time we have an emotional trigger whether we are getting emotionally invested because of a social expectation, or because we truly are emotionally invested in the fight-construct. We may do well to observe how society is crafting our emotional responses by wrapping them in “causes” and popular opinion.

In Organized Passivity, we may think we are crafting modes of change, vessels of revolution, but we are increasingly crafting social restrictions onto thought itself. We have so interwoven ourselves into restrictive forms that our emotions are conditioned to respond in publicly ascribed ways to different forms of data.

How I Wrote Two Books in Seven Months

At this time, I am wrapping up my second book of a series of three. That’s seven months from when I started the first book. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, I’ve started writing books too many times to count, and each time I would stop, never getting past thirty pages. Those were mostly memoir. In fact, this series began as a memoir and quickly turned into fiction when I found fiction more riveting than real life. After all, I have already lived my past, why not explore something beyond it. How did I do it?

Book photo by Vincent Guth

I do not allow myself to read any writing advice.

Advice has always had a knack for clouding my judgment. I take it to heart too much, especially, and contradictorily, when the advice is not relevant to my situation. I somehow convince myself that it is relevant. Writing is different for everyone, it’s a very individual process, so it was important for me to toss aside writing advice. When I ignore writing advice, I’m able to have a much clearer image of myself as a writer.

Book photo by Matthew Brodeur

I write to entertain and comfort myself.

For me to be able to write extensively, I had to have it in my mind to both entertain and comfort myself. In order to do this, I had to go away from what I knew about the contemporary novel, which leaves me feeling sterile and often isolated. The standard contemporary novel was not the novel I wanted to write. I wanted to write something as alien as I feel, and as entertaining as would correspond with the story, which I was giving free reign to toil itself out onto the pages. When I relinquished the control I thought I could forcefully exert on each portion of the story, I wrote better.

Book photo by Filip Zrnzevic

I just…wrote it.

I believe there’s a magical way to do everything, but the attribution of magic comes down the road when one has forgotten the immanent stresses and pressures of the current moment. To write is just to write. The only goal for my novels was to finish something, to set something down where it ought to be. I knew the writing had to go onto the page because when I’m writing is the only time I feel whole. To have neglected to get the story out would have been to continue to closet it deeply within myself.

Book photo by Annie Spratt

There is nothing heroic in neglecting to acknowledge an art engrained within you. I say this because I believed it myself for many years. Meditated expression and freed expression give way to more unearthing than could be possibly hoped for. To start on a path of expression is to open up the floodgates of creativity. A word leads to another, which leads to sentences, histories both fiction and altered, incredulous discoveries of humanity in its full array of limitations, and the absolutely riveting conformity standards poised from an alternative allegorical place.

What It Means to Follow

To follow is to, out of willingness to subject oneself, make accessible a mode of thought, person, or other formation of coagulated data.  The meaning of this is to partake in some kind of collectivity, indirectly or directly. Following a social media celebrity on Instagram is the act of collectively receiving data, and likewise of receiving collective data. This data is intertwined with other sets, and itself follows modes of presentation. Even doing something “new” is reactionary. New is in this sense fills the expanse of a clearly set-out void, one that has likely been addressed already. It’s a pictorial rejection of patriarchy, a touching rendering of overcoming a hardship, a taunt in the masked face of an illusive authority.

Follow photo by Gianne De Jesus

Continuous streams of imagery, toiling or fruitful, identifiably encroach, leak, or are welcomed fully into our span of media intake. Some take the thing, some their interpretation of the thing, and some understand the illusion of the thing. All things, these things, live in a mode – a revenue of a set compilation of social probabilities. Even seeming outliers of this equation have a traceable congestion of qualifiable factors.

Follow photo by Gianne De Jesus

To follow is to safely assure the brain of a consistent mode, consistent even in its inconsistency. It is to play viewer of a palpable iteration of continuously rearranged factors that can go undetected to the eye that seeks nothing other than the sheen, the glimmer, the thing. Emission of data, and immersion into these data streams play nearly identical roles in the formation of mass function fathomably riddled and ridden with probability.

The Adjustment from Logic

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Someway along the way or from the very beginning, we choose adjustment; it is us as a form of default, or alternatively, we consciously reject adjustment. In rejecting it, we stay along a path of inner knowing.

When we choose adjustment, we choose to place higher value on the structure of the current paradigmatic thought process rather than the structure and implementation of logic.

photo by Neven Krcmarek

While paradigmatic thought and logic are not always mutually exclusive, we risk being less cognizant of logical alternatives in lieu of the easily-accessible and understood paradigm. By continuously adjusting our behaviors, thoughts, and actions towards the current paradigm, we neglect to consider logic to an absurd level. So much so, that if we become adjusted enough to the popular mode of thought, we make it a point to destroy those points of logic that don’t fit into the paradigm we have come to adopt.

Institutions, from the professional to the religious, suffer this dissociative thinking when an instance of logic occurs and is thrown aside in the face of a preferable outcome derived from paradigmatic thought. Micro-communities can also use and exploit a set paradigm to the advantage of a particular party within the community, such as the leader, or an ideal, as set forth by one or more members of the community.

photo by Jason Blackeye

We are not doing well to be adjusted to ideas that contradict logic. If we can parse out even slight logical exercises in the face of a  questionable situation, we can do much better to address the situation in reality, rather than in a constructed duplication of a reality that is muddled by overt or covert influence.

Logic is a profoundly important skill to administer daily. It awakens and beautifies the world around us, freeing us to parse out higher-level information musings. While logic is not always innately understood, it can be learned. If we choose adjustment, we will likely have easier lives, but a logical life provides a life closer to a truth-process, which is arguably closer to the fulfilling human experience.

On Stimuli

Unsatisfying stimulus, it sounds like a mouthful, and it is. It’s those bits of sound, parcels of information, and flagrant visuals that fly past us. And before we’ve had the opportunity to turn our attentions away, these morsels stick. Especially in this time of internet booming, we’re seeing a tremendous range and saturation of more stimuli, and particularly stimuli that is not satisfying to pay attention to. The whole lot of it contributes to overstimulation too, which is a topic we fail to address in human mental health.

What Makes Stimuli Satisfying

Stimuli is satisfying when it’s pleasant; but it’s also satisfying when it fills a need. A need could be a general curiosity, a requirement for a direct answer, or an emotional need like verbal reassurance, among many others. Satisfaction is different for every person and every purpose of stimuli acquisition.

Stimuli is not satisfying when it coerces the senses, emotions, and cognitive faculties. Neither is it satisfying when it’s part of a body of overstimulation. We see this overstimulation in those individuals that are able to track large amounts of data. Perusing information, especially when it’s not pertinent to the matter at hand, can be overwhelming.

photo by Ramon Solinero

The New Segmentation of Ideologies and Claims at Ignorance

The population is segmenting, not over topical things like race, gender, and others, but over ideologies. If I go to Whole Foods, I’m looking at alternative diets (vegan, paleo) magazine at the checkout stands. Alternatively, if I go to Safeway, I’m looking at gossip magazine. While one may want to make the price-driven argument, that too is choice-based. People choose their vocations and the targeting of their energies, though we are reluctant as a society to admit this. We don’t want to make those sort of admissions because it would imply free-will, which means that we would be responsible for all of our actions. It would mean that our actions would be less-so excused by situation and circumstance, which are common fall-backs. Although it is fair to claim ignorance, it cannot be a sustainable excuse for repetitive action.

Does responsibility fall on the individual to diversity his stimuli? I say yes, it is the responsibility of the individual to alternate sources and diversify his stimuli. While the individual may not be able to control the entry of unsatisfying and overwhelming stimuli, he may be able to better tailor the acquirement of his materials so as to thoroughly round himself out. For example, Westerners can pick up the Bhagavad Gita or a book on Jungian theory. Someone in a stimuli rut can also start experimenting with different types of music or different cuisines. If the cost argument comes it again, and it is very valid at the stimuli-acquirement suggestion, I would implore visiting a public library. I spent a tremendous amount of time at public libraries teaching myself to stretch my attention span and my cognitive ability. There is no cure for the man or woman who makes claims at the falsehood that he does not have time to expand his mind.

On a Revised Division of Labor

“Celui-là tissera des toiles, l’autre dans la forêt par l’éclair de sa hache couchera l’arbre. L’autre, encore, forgera des clous, et il en sera quelque part qui observeront les étoiles afin d’apprendre à gouverner. Et tous cependant ne seront qu’un.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

photo by Andrew Neel

In the above quote, de Saint-Exupery relays that to build a ship, each laborer has a component which he will focus on. Later in the text (“Citadelle”), the author speaks regarding the community of oneness and the common goal of entering the sea. Specialization of labor is not a new topic, but it is surely one that we need to re-address and this time, without the common fall-back of “well this is the way it’s always been.” In actuality, the labor pool is grossly underutilized. And by that, I mean that some laborers (in any position) are mismatched with their positions: overvalued, undervalued. In addition to that, some fields create so many arbitrary barriers to entry (such as years of experience required) that they are missing out on crucial talent. In reality, we see a lot of the same patterns playing out in business management: some individuals use their time to falsify a belief in their indispensability, others create continuous boundaries to the development of individual strengths, and more use manipulation tools to appeal to a worker’s emotions and weaknesses.

photo by Anton Repponen

Key to the obstruction of growth are the following aspects of our current division of labor, and labor acquisition:

We fit people into pre-defined job descriptions, rather than give them liberties to tailor the jobs to their strengths. In most jobs, conformity (to job “culture” and to the position itself) is the absolute. This meaning, one person, or a small group of people, dictate the exact features of the job position and take an overbearing approach on emphasizing “the way we do it”.

Say that five people are hired by a company to perform the same job. All five people have different strengths and weaknesses. Yet, all five people are asked to perform the job in the same way and obtain the same results. On a logical level, a company cannot feasibly go about erasing a person’s predispositions and personal history so that each and every hire works in the very same fashion. Rather, a more intelligent approach is provide the new hires with the job description, but mainly focusing on the goal of the job position at hand. With some gentle guidance at first, the individual can then go on and tailor the position to his strengths and forgo and forget all of his weaknesses.

Pre-defined job descriptions could well emphasize an individual’s less cultivated traits. Rather than do so, why not take the newly-hired individual as a product of his experiences, and allow him the freedom to weave his strengths into the fabric of his job position? In addition to creating a strengths-first approach to a person, the liberties an employer provides will encourage pride in the worker. It is naive and counter-intuitive to attempt to dramatically change the worker’s personality to better suit a position, to address weaknesses exponentially more than strengths, and to undervalue the individual intellectual assets that a worker brings into a company. Variance of talent does not do disservice to a company, unless the company’s primary focus is stasis and even regression.

photo by Marta Pawlik

Overvalued laborers play office. The trend I’ve been aware of is that overvalued laborers, especially in management positions have a few primary concerns: perpetuating the idea of their indispensability, inculcating an undercurrent of fear and manipulation in the ones they manage, and effectively filtering all ideas so as to render them impotent.

For the overvalued laborer in a managerial position, play is a large facet of their position. When I say this, I mean that the work setting becomes an environment in which they can easily alter components to draw about scenes invested in emotion. Equally so, they can set forth ideas of conformity through tactics of resoundingly antithetical parsing. In this, the overvalued laborer arbitrates definitive reactions about an individual’s “potential” and calls forth distinctive barriers to a worker’s livelihood at a company.

Play also comes in where overvalued laborers consciously alter company information (regarding hiring, firing, etc.) to suit their interests, which often remain illusive through the process of alteration. On the other end, the play may have been poorly thought out and the overvalued laborer may well serve to alienate management from the workers by altering information in such an obviously false way as to indicate to the workers that alteration is in usage.

A final instance of play that I will address here, though there are many more, is the play of grandeur. It is easy to fall prey to this instillation in the workplace, and oftentimes, will work for the introductory period of an individual’s employment. Common rhetoric in this phase includes “you’re so lucky to have the opportunity to work here” and “I’m going to work here until I die.” This sort of phrasing cultivates a trigger sensor in the newly hired worker, which signifies to them that keeping this job is of vital and utter importance. The trigger sensor can also mask some more outlandish requests on part of the manager that would have otherwise caused the worker to re-evaluate the intentions of the employer beyond the agreed-on exchange of labor for monetary compensation.

photo by Yasin Aribuga

A revised division of labor serves to properly adapt job descriptions to the hired worker, rather than strip the worker of his strengths in light of “the way things have always been done.” It also serves to administer clear and ethical business practices, that allow the worker autonomy, and thereby, the cultivation of pride in his individual work. It is not enough for the growth of civilization to continue down the path of overvaluing some laborers while undervaluing and even undermining others. To work from a strengths approach will serve the best probable outcome for a company seeking to develop past the current regressive model.