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.
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.
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.
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.