Once upon a time, I taught courses in college-level English Rhetoric, as well as college-level introductory Biology. This morning I got to combine those disparate background-bits to work on a freelance assignment–writing 6,000 words of rhetoric (and making a damn good case, if I say so myself) for something I don’t believe at all.
Six thousand words about why people shouldn’t take prescription antidepressants. I started my morning with a pot of coffee AND my own prescription antidepressant before settling in to write this. My left wrist sports a year-old scar from a kitchen knife (length-wise along the vein, because I meant business at the time)–a reminder which confirms the certainty that taking my prescription antidepressant is a truly fucking GOOD idea!
I write what I’m paid to write. Is that right?
If I didn’t write this one, somebody else would—although that reasoning rings pretty lamely in my own ears. If I were speaking for myself, I would never discourage another struggling person from the medications that arguably save my own life. Having said that, my research and my biology background tell me that the alternative remedy which I’m “selling” today in place of pharmacy prescriptions might be effective as well. A person who, for whatever reason, felt strongly opposed to prescription antidepressants might be better off with this alternative than without it. Still, I’m making a strong case here for avoiding the prescription options—which (however admirably argued) is a bunch of B.S.
I actually can think of quite a list of things I would refuse to write, even if the money were good, and even knowing somebody else would be writing it and putting it out there when I declined… Maybe my question to myself this morning is why this issue doesn’t make that list.
It’s not about my name, since my name doesn’t go out on freelance work… There are times when I’m just as glad of that, and a few other times when I wouldn’t have minded taking the credit. (Like the instance when a client sent an example of what he called “the perfect writing style” he wanted emulated, and it turned out to be a piece I had written. Yessir, pretty sure I can emulate that style.) Fact is, I’m not writing “as myself” when I’m working—I save that for writing here.
And it’s not entirely about the money–though the morning’s work on this paid the month’s internet bill, to put things in context.
Evidently I don’t feel strongly enough about this one to decline.
Maybe it’s because I don’t really believe an article of this sort would cause anyone to avoid prescription options if they weren’t already biased against taking them. And maybe it’s because I’m not presenting any untrue facts–I’ve researched the biology and the chemistry and presented what’s true, about both the prescription options and the “alternative” treatment... just with the (requested) biased rhetoric fluffed around it.
Despite the title here, I don’t really feel like I’m selling my soul on this one–it just got me pondering.
If nothing else, it’s a good intellectual exercise–with a bit of karma thrown in. I used to make my students do exactly this; I’d tell them we were doing “opinion papers,” had them each pick a topic they felt strongly about–and after they’d named their topics, made them write the opposite viewpoint from their own opinion. Purely an exercise in rhetorical skills, where they’d have to work to craft an argument that wasn’t carried by their own opinions or emotions. They’d be tickled to know the tables got turned on me, wouldn’t they?