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Library > Articles > Writing > 002

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The fastest road to self destruction
Contributor: Mike de Sousa

The hardest challenge for a working writer is to sustain quality and originality. There are times when the pressure to churn out a feature without too much care and attention is overwhelming. This article explains why for me, that's the fastest road to self destruction, and how I aim to avoid it.

Although this article takes writing as it's starting point, much of what I'll be saying here applies to any creative area. From the trade of ideas onwards the article broadens its' scope to argue for non-profit-making community forums and their integration into commercial web sites.

The challenge of writing well
A good writer
communicates well. When writers are asked to deliver a constant stream of material the lines of battle are drawn. The foe is not your line editor demanding completion against an impossible deadline, but rather the voices of mediocrity and compromise that call from within. The voices that gently, quietly plead 'give them anything, this once, just write, don't care'. Once you cross the line it becomes second nature and you join the tribe of writers whose line of work has more to do with volume than content.

The balance of nature
There's nothing wrong with career writing so long as the act of writing is disconnected from the root that defines you. If writing is simply a job, a skill employed but that is of no personal importance, then writing purely to pay the bills and to keep the lifestyle you are accustomed to won't cause problems. If however you have at your centre a need to connect and communicate, then writing to order is a constant challenge as you try your best to find something of relevance and importance in what may often seem on the face of it a superficial subject.

I'm not suggesting a writer must be earnest, or that writers whose job is limited to entertain will fall into a world of tragedy and trauma. I'm saying that for writers who have something of their own to communicate to a waiting public, the path of the jobbing writer is a dangerous one as the pressures of generating income rail against the needs of 'creative conscience'.

Commercialism and the writer
Writing makes money. The commercial pressures to ensure publications are profitable often conflict with the need a writer has for reflection. I often begin an article then leave it for a while as I ponder and consider the issues that arise from it. This crucial aspect of writing is so often neglected in the world of commercial writing as this practice is easily open to abuse.

A reflective working method is based wholly on trust between the writer and publisher and inevitably produces less volume of written material. However, those publications that do allow their writers time to write, reap the benefits with more carefully considered and crafted work that is generally more satisfying to write and more enriching to the reader.

The trade of ideas
Ideas are cheap, they appear out of the ether. Most evaporate before they see the light of day. It is the exchange of ideas that is of value and seized on by the commercial world. The Internet has created an ever more bloody pool as it devours articles like a giant whale gorging itself on the plankton of countless pages.

There are now fresh challenges to the writer. The casual plagiarism of work and the sheer volume of written material on the Internet can dishearten a writer. On the other hand the opportunity for anyone who has access to the Internet to write and be published is of profound significance. There is little doubt the development of the Internet is of greater importance than the invention of the printing press in relation to the presentation of the ordinary person's voice.

The potential democratizing effect of the Internet is for me why it such an exciting communications channel as it provides people the opportunity to express, participate, and influence all our futures. The challenge of a web site such as AbleStable® is to remain apolitical, carefully moderating the quality of writing while encouraging and reflecting a broad range of expression, views and opinions.

I believe there is only one way this can be honestly and effectively achieved and that is through a non-commercial model. That's why the library at AbleStable® will always remain a free forum and no payment will be given or received to participate in it. It may be that in the longer term content from our library may be syndicated, but any syndication arrangement would have to purely benefit those contributing to the library which would effectively operate as a non-profit arm of AbleStable®, perhaps by supporting improved services. The Exhibition Area at AbleStable® will also follow this model.

As soon as the exchange of money is introduced problems of inequality arise. By limiting the benefits of contributing to community forums such as the Library and Exhibition Area at AbleStable® (benefits include on-line publication, links, community building and information exchange), the forum remains open and inclusive.

Free the spirit, yoke the mind
As I approach the close of this article it becomes clear that writing well is encouraged by the writers' broader context. I've argued the most effective context to support the many is a community forum based on a non-commercial model. In the case of AbleStable® the non-profit-making model is supported by a commercial directory of creative professionals where income is generated through Member and Partner registration, together with Client project postings. The two entities perfectly and pragmatically compliment one another and forms the basis of my philosophy and vision of what I am determined AbleStable® can and will become.

On a personal level I do not write to order well as I spend as much time that is required to complete a task to the best of my ability. The effect of this is that on a commercial project I usually commit myself far beyond the budget, pick up the tab myself for the additional time I've spent on the job, and by so doing avoid the road to self destruction that is the title of this article. The down side: you don't put food on your plate that way. The development of AbleStable® is therefore a personal solution to a timeless problem of creative people: keep the wolves at bay and be true to yourself...


     
       
 
Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author.

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