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?
30 thoughts on “Soul for Sale, Going Once…”
I’ve had to do that once. In a class on Russian History. The professor clearly had one opinion and differing views we WRONG (and graded as such). It must have been convincing, because I got an A+. Still some of the hardest writing I’ve done.
I appreciate the perspective you provide here, and the fact that you can do it with a sense of humor (and including Calvin and Hobbes was a plus).
Ghostwriters reserve the right to possess degrees of disagreement. In some cases, the subject matter is unpalatable or a product of conflicting personal views — stuff that’s not damaging and that we’ll happily write without our byline, because we understand that the world is teeming with differing, yet equally valuable, views. But then there are the things that cause unrest — we know that if we write it, we couldn’t rest knowing that some unsuspecting, vulnerable soul is buying into it. It’s a conscience thing.
Thank for posting, Kana. I think you’re right on.
Just for fun: What’s one thing you won’t write about? Don’t fee obligated to answer. I wouldn’t want you to scare away any clients who might mistakenly classify their project as part of your condemned category.
Ha, an excellent question! And I appreciate your circumspect approach–although if prospective clients DID have projects that would fall in my won’t-do-it categories, I don’t want to hear from them anyway. ;)
Right off the bat, my “refusal category” would include any writing that encouraged misperceptions about PEOPLE. There’s a lot of crap floating around about alcoholics & addicts, for example, and this alcoholic/addict would decline to add to it–or for another personal example, I have a daughter who’s married to a beautiful woman, and I wouldn’t write, even for pay, a negative perspective of the gay & lesbian community… Those are examples of “people categories” in which I have a personal investment, but this particular refusal-rule would apply even if my personal life weren’t involved. (Blue Girl in a Red State, that’s me–yes, I’m a social liberal.)
This one could grow into a whole post of its own, couldn’t it? :) I have to go write about “transitioning from military to civilian life” (the day’s next project) but I may be back to revisit this… :)
You go (or don’t go)!
Even though ghostwriters aren’t always credited, we’re contributing to a representation of the public’s private voice (because we’re choosing and declining work). You have to go to bed with you, and I’m guessing that you’re sleeping well. Happy selective writing!
What a writer you are, Kana. I love your honesty and sharing of yourself in the way that you do it.
Great topic, Kana. I refused a large sign order from a customer last week (and I really needed the money) because I didn’t like him. I knew the order would make me unhappy all the way through and he bad mouthed a guy I really admire. I knew there had to be a better way to pay the bills. In my 20 years at Signs by Beth, he’s only the third person who got really hateful and nasty, so I guess I’m fortunate. (He dropped the F bomb at me repeatedly, for refusing his business) But… I do accept jobs that have ugly logos, drawn by the client’s nephew…. I just don’t put my name on those signs. Ghost sign making? he he he
By the way, I agree with your position on antidepressants. Have a great day!
Thought-provoking topic. I liked your exploration and I’m glad you bare your soul here. We all benefit from that.
Kana, what can I say? You rock. I don’t know if I could have done the article on antidepressants, myself having to partake of too many of those little buggers just to get out of bed every day, but I admire your approach to the ordeal.
Kana, I’d much rather have you, a thoughtful, educated woman writing this rhetoric, than some fool who doesn’t know anything, but thinks he/she’s right. Congrats on handling a sticky situation quite well.
Well, this one hit kinda close to home. The scar on my wrist, so many years later, is almost just a bump, that reminder fading as I find more value in myself. However, I can tell you that the only reason my family still speaks to anyone is because 8 out of 10 of us take our happy pills. Seriously.
I read a lot of crap about not taking them, and I have always wondered if the folks that write those things have a freaking clue. You have answered my question, to some degree. I keep considering the freelance thing, but just not sure how well I could do on writing what someone tells me to write.
Wow. I couldn’t do it. Actually, it makes me think less of you. The fact that you admit it here, even more so.
That’s was my initial reaction.
After a bit of thought…well…I like to think of myself as an environmentalist, but I still drive a car that runs on gas (at least, it’s a Honda!). I like to think that I’m a stout atheist, but I removed any indication of my secular position on my writer blog. I like to think that I’m all for helping the homeless, but since moving to a town where homelessness is literally in my backyard, not if it inconveniences me. I’m such a hypocrite. We all have to give and take in this world. Where each of us draws the line is personal.
Truly, thank you for baring your soul. It has given me much to ponder.
And thank YOU for baring yours so honestly. I, too, am pondering… ;)
I drove a Prius (until the Repo Man took it away)… I spent my five months of unemployment last year volunteering full-time in the local women’s shelter… I took my non-denominational Recovery-based ministry into the women’s jail… On those issues I’ve put my actions “where my mouth is”… And yet, I chose to accept this assignment. This Life-stuff isn’t black-and-white, is it? :)
Exactly. I like to think I wouldn’t sell-out my fundamental beliefs, but when don’t I? As another person said in the comments below, we make compromises every hour of every day. Again, thanks for the post. You are a wonderful person. Far better than I. I mean that.
Kana, I, too, have both written essays supporting opinions opposite to my own and have had students, Scouts, Key-Clubbers, etc. do the same. These writing challenges have always improved the next few writing tasks I undertook! With that said, I will just offer you my prayers for your continued life with coffee and prescription anti-depressants! Kana, we all make some sorts of compromises every hour of every day. We live a deal of our lives in various shades of grey, not black and white. Only if we are extremely bold do we get to live in rainbow shades! Every time I visit your blog, I go away a little bit pinker–maybe with a touch of lavendar! This is the way your undiluted honesty and skill with phrasing affects me. Thank you!
I find this all fascinating, the freelance writing, on a variety of subjects, I honestly don’t know how you do it. It’s like looking at a different side of the world. 6.000 words seems a awful lot of words to me, good on you.
Irony sucks sometimes … but if life were black and white, rainbows wouldn’t exist … which would really suck!
You could have passed this one on to me. I woke up this morning very happy to be off my perscription antidepressant. My husband might have a different opinion.
Kana, i’ve long believed that it’s the mark of a first-rate mind to be able to argue both sides of a point. to my way of thinking a thing is a thing, it only changes within the mind of the viewer, and with the view from which it is observed – or, in this case, the way it is used – or abused. it’s a pleasure reading something written by an obvious first rate mind as yours.
and p.s thanks – and i’m signing on. continue…
There are probably dangers in taking any meds, and dangers in not taking them. Why don’t you write it the way you want to – giving both sides the attention you want to – then edit out the part you think they wouldn’t want to print. It might help you retain authenticity in the point of view that isn’t yours. I guess we all have to do things we don’t like sometimes.
Everyone has a price, right? Now you know yours. ;-)
Antidepressants made me twitchy. Literally. I did not like it. And I thought it was interesting that the doctor said that they only dampen your self-destructive urges to the point where you don’t really care enough to act on them. They don’t fix the problem. For that, she said, you must change the way you think, to alleviate the actual cause of your depression. She recommended cognitive therapy, and I found it very effective. I stopped taking the drugs and felt much better.
Excellently put–it’s our *thinking* that we ultimately have to change. In my case, though, I couldn’t fix the brain I’ve got with the brain I’ve got. ;) It’s the medications that have ENABLED me to tackle the rest of the thinking-changes and life-changes, which were much needed. A.A. has done for me what cognitive therapy has evidently done for you, with regard to tackling Change from the inside out… Isn’t it a beautiful thing that we have options? :)
When I empathize with the other side of an issue I have strong beliefs about, people (especially family) often think that that means I agree with the other side. It’s a difficult method for people to handle when they are “set in their ways” but I feel like it challenges my ideals and strengthens my beliefs to ask why….to understand the reasoning underneath others’ opinions.
I agree with previous comments that you handled the situation very well. Thanks for the post!
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I hope this year is wonderfully blessed.
Jeeze Kana, what a powerful piece! I’ve been thinking about it all day. I wouldn’t worry about selling your soul on this one – I think “business, not personal” covers it, as lame as that sounds, but it’s third circle stuff, so not entirely real on a personal level, and you’re right: you wouldn’t cause anyone to avoid prescription options if they weren’t already biassed against them. I think if you were sincere in presenting your facts – all be it rhetorical ones – you shouldn’t feel guilty here. The plus side for the rest of us is your internet connection’s secure for another month.
What struck me most of all though was, having a bit of an alternative bent, and having written passionately against prescription anti-depressants in the past (after a brief spell on Prozac), you’ve made me re-address my undoubted bias on the subject. I still think there’s a problem in that SSRI’s are prescribed too easily for all sorts of “minor” emotional shadows. I remember Prozac was a bad trip for me – worse than the jitters I was feeling at the time. I was lucky and was able to hold myself together with meditation and stuff like that. But if you’re in the darkest place imaginable, as you were – after reading this – I appreciate they can be a life safer.
Keep safe Kana.
Prozac wasn’t great for me either–although in my case it was still better than leaving my unbalanced brain chemistry to do its own thing. ;) I’m grateful that there’s an increasing variety of options–both my husband and I have found something that makes each of our heads a better place to be (Effexor in my case, Pristiq in his)–and if I were to write on this topic “for myself,” my argument would be not to discount OPTIONS. Any of them. Including meditation, herbals, prayer, 12-step programs… And prescriptions. I use ALL of the those, and I’m in an entirely different world from the world that had shrunk down to the size of my dry bathtub where I was going to work on my wrist with a kitchen knife. (Can’t believe that was only 14 months ago…)
I COMPLETELY agree with you about the over-prescription of SSRIs, and experiences like yours with Prozac are testaments to the fact that the prescription bottle is not a universal silver bullet.
Thank you so much for sharing. :)
You are so grounded. I always learn something new here and especially look forward to what you’ll write next. Great analysis.
If I had to be a true failure at something I am glad it was suicide. I would’ve missed some pretty neat shit.
Late to the party–thought provoking, I guess I would need to read how strongly you opposed meds. I am a strong believer in medication for depression, bipolarism and anxiety and people who really would do better on meds look for excuses not to take them, plus there’s the stigma, etc. It is possible an article could dissuade someone who really needed to be on them. On a practical level, I have been able to function well on Sam-e instead of prescription. Appreciate, as always, your transparency.
Writing something that opposes your own opinion is definitely a test and challenge. It is much easier to write what you like as opposed to writing what you don’t. But it’s better to jump on that challenge because it’s a way of testing your skills and showing what you’ve got.