What’s on the iPod: Animal by Neon Trees
I have never been so glad to see a day come. It’s Election Day, which means after 8 pm, all the phone calls, emails, mailers, and door knockers will leave me the hell alone for four more years. I’ve donated to my candidate twice. I won’t do it a third time (my funds are more limited than his), and you already have my vote. Go away.
I will also avoid Facebook, Twitter, etc. until the losing camp stops complaining. I hate the polarization, the lies told on all sides about the other sides, the false generalizations, and the way everyone digs in their heels and won’t talk intelligently or rationally. If you can’t listen as well as blather on, shut up from the get-go and save me the trouble of telling you to, I say.
Enough of that (I hope).
I was chatting with a writer friend yesterday about the different things we see writers taking as fact. It’s especially harmful to new writers, who may hear one or two seemingly established writers spreading such “facts” and adopt into their business some unhealthy (if not unethical) practices. So just in case you were wondering, here are some things to remember:
Rewriting is stealing. Oh please. Don’t try convincing anyone that taking someone else’s article, blog post, or book and rewriting it in your own words isn’t theft. Try rewriting a best seller and selling it. Go on. I dare you. Wait. It happened already (allegedly). And it lost her a budding career. Don’t rewrite anything. Create your own story. Use more than two sources to find your information, and interview when necessary.
You can’t hide behind Fair Use. I’m reminded of the dude who lifted tons of websites and blogs, wrapped his own URL and web format around them, and gave “credit” to the original sources, but only if you clicked three different times to get to your site from his. He argued it was fair use under US copyright law (it isn’t). Worse, he teaches this kind of crap to other designers in his copyright course. He’s skirting the law (and in some cases ignoring it) and trying to wrap it in a better package. Theft is theft, gift-wrapped or not.
Keyword stringing is not writing. There’s a difference between being asked to add a certain number of keywords to your client’s projects and stuffing as many as you can into incoherent, nonsensical articles. If someone expects you to write without regard for the readability of your piece, that’s not a client worth keeping.
Writing content and writing for content mills is different. Really, really different. Writing content could mean anything from brochures and slogans to websites and white papers for a rate you’ve negotiated with the client. Writing for a content mill means keyword stringing (see above) and being forced to write fast and possibly rewrite someone else’s work in order to meet some ridiculous quota just so you can get five extra bucks. See? Different.
Without ethics, your career is headed for disaster. I cannot tell you how many promising, even on-fire writers I’ve seen flame out and disappear because they skimped on ethics or truth and treated their communities or their colleagues like subjects in their own personal kingdoms. The more you step on people, the more tread marks are now aimed at your own back. Those who fail to realize that are either already gone or on their way.