For me, creativity is the joy of life. It is also a delicate fire that can be easily put out if not properly nurtured. Being creative requires a willingness to fail. It seems that for every ten failures there is one success. Very often that one success is not possible without those ten preceding failures. Being creative (at least for me) requires a certain level of exposure. There has to exist the opportunity to be judged by others to raise the stakes and risk catastrophe. This raising of the stakes gives it an energy that it would not otherwise have. This means that creativity requires a willingness to be vulnerable. In this way there are two counterbalancing forces at play. On the one hand creativity requires nurturing but on the other it must also risk negative judgment.
I make myself vulnerable in this way on a weekly basis when I write this blog. I write about what I am thinking. I enjoy the process of creating and putting it out there. The fact that what I write can be read by other people matters more than whether it is actually read because all of this is an internal and solipsistic process. In other words it is my own anticipation of my writing being read by others that (to a certain extent) fuels the fire of creativity
On the other hand there are very real, judgmental and sometimes hostile voices out there. These voices can manifest themselves as actual people in my blog’s comment section or as an internal critical voice. To a degree I enjoy their hostility because there is a power in getting their reaction. This is an ego based sort of enjoyment and as such is ultimately self annihilating in nature. As is the judgmental hostility it is interacting with. For this reason this enjoyment is something that I am not all together comfortable with. There is also a certain amount of defiance of this hostility on my part at play in this dynamic. This also fuels the fire. Moreover, if I were to not write and publish for fear of being judged I would only be stifling myself. This is a another form of self annihilation. So I must write.
These hostile forces share similar qualities. They all seem to take offense at true expression on supposed moral grounds. This is always the way with the ego who is threatened by the free expression of others. The ego is always comparing itself to others and placing everything on a hierarchy. It is threatened by the idea of equality and it employs shame to create this false hierarchy very likely because that weapon was used so successfully on it. I suspect there is jealousy at play here. The hostile force’s free expression had been shut down by shame and so it cannot bear to see free expression in others. It touches a point of pain that is too much to endure. Because it cannot be free no one else can be either. It sees freedom as rebellion and radical autonomy. It denies that freedom is actually the expression of one’s true nature which is the expression of God’s will.
After several months of writing three articles a day containing three hundred to five hundred words on topics of which I have very little knowledge and even less interest which are specifically designed for web bots’ consumption, I have noticed my creative muscle has strengthened. My creative muscle has strengthened because I use it every day and it has in turn adapted to this daily usage. When I use the term “creative muscle” I refer to my brain’s ability to create content for these articles. I think the term muscle is an especially apt metaphor in this context because like a muscle, my brain’s ability to create content improves with exercise.
On a related note, I am a member of a local Toastmasters chapter which is another activity I take part in on a regular basis. Part of the meeting consists of an activity called “Table Topics” where a member selected to be the week’s “Topics Master” devises a series of questions to ask randomly selected people attending the meeting. The person who is asked the question then has to come up with a one to two minute response to the question. This exercise exercises the person’s ability to speak off the cuff in front of a group of people on a subject of which they may or may not have any knowledge. At first I intensely disliked this portion of the meet because it made physically uncomfortable to sit with the anticipation of being called upon. I have never grow comfortable with the experience however, overtime I have noticed that my ability to devise a response has improved.
The more I think about it the more I realize these two activities are in fact very similar. They are similar for all the obvious reasons. That is, they both develop the creative muscle of the mind to generate content in the moment without preparation. However, they are also similar on a more technical level. Specifically, I found that both exercises have strengthened my creative muscle to devise content that reads and sounds meaningful but may or may not contain any real meaning at all. Intrinsic to this skill is the ability to make the content have the appearance of actual content intended to inform its intended audience. This aspect is crucial because if the content appears to be obvious spam or verbal diarrhea then it will repel its intended audience. But content with the appearance of actual content will draw its intended audience in. Regardless of whether the employment of this skill is ethical there is no denying its importance, value and power.
But it is important to consider the ethical implications of developing this skill. On the one hand there is a certain level of deception going on. It could be argued that giving a person or a web bot representing the interests of a person the illusion of relevant, useful content without actually giving them anything relevant or useful is dishonest and therefore morally wrong. I think this argument is not without merit however, I also think that the intention behind the illusion also factors significantly to color this ethical analysis. For example, sometimes illusion can be entertaining and if this is the illusion’s intended purpose then I see nothing morally wrong with the illusion even if the recipient of the illusion does not fully grasp this intention. Obviously, if the illusion is intended to deceive another person for the purposes of theft then it falls more towards the morally wrong end of this spectrum.
The question then presents itself: is designing content intended to give web bots the illusion of content a morally wrong act? Clearly designing a Table Topics response to sound like actual content in the moment when called upon randomly to do so within the context of a Toastmasters meeting falls more towards the entertainment (and therefore morally good or at least neutral) end of the spectrum. Misdirecting web bots, however, is a little less clear I suppose because ultimately there are economic interests at stake and obtaining money from another person through false pretenses smacks of fraud. As discussed in my previous blog post the content I write (as a side profession) is intended to optimize a website my content links to in a search engine’s listings which are responsive to specific keywords. This in turn will work to increase the amount of traffic that finds its way to that website because the people using specific keywords in a search engine will see that website list closer to the top of the list of websites generated by the search engine in response to those keywords. An increase in web traffic (hopefully) will result in more sales and profit for the business that employs that particular website.
The reader will appreciate that the complex nature of the language required to explain this process demonstrates the muddy ethical water in which this sort of activity swims. Clearly it is not on the same ethical level as murder. But nor is it on the same ethical level of altruistically nursing a waylaid stranger found along the side of the road back to health. In the end, I think it is sufficient to say that the practice of creating content intended to misdirect web bots is ethically ambiguous at best and perhaps for the purposes of this blog post I can leave it at that. There is, however, a certain power to the ability to do it as I discussed and I suppose this power is deserving of respect. This power (for better or worse) is something I a developing daily by writing content for web bots and weekly by attending Toastmasters meetings. I must admit that I enjoy the process and will therefore continue to do it. Of course all this describes an exposure to something new that I am exploring and learning more about as I do it. I have not yet reached an ethical impasse but I suppose what I am trying to articulate is that I do recognize the possibility of that event.
Recently an angry “neighbor” accused me of blogging for “validation.” Implicit in this accusation (I think) is the idea that seeking validation from other people is somehow a bad quality. I am guessing this angry individual sees it as a form of weakness which is deserving of shame. As is the nature of my relationship with this angry person, his attacks are annoying at first but ultimately serve as a view into his mindset which is both unaware and shame based. This view then gives me material to write about in this blog.
All this interplay has raised the question, why do I blog in the first place? Inspired by the writings of James Altucher, I wrote down a list of ten reasons why I blog:
- I like to think that the first and most important reason why I blog is to exercise my writing muscle. That is, the more I write the better I get at writing much the same way that the more a body builder lifts weights the more muscle mass he will develop. From one perspective this motivation could be seen as ego based if the desire to improve is really a desire to look good in the eyes of others as opposed to a love of the craft. I think, however, awareness of this possibility is enough to counteract this ego based tendency for the most part.
- I must admit that my angry neighbor’s “validation” accusation is at least partly correct in that I blog because I do other enjoy people reading and reacting to my work. This is a form of validation and to an extent is a form of ego gratification. However, validation and ego gratification are not per se bad things. I do, however, think that they need to be kept in check through awareness and not be allowed to become the primary motivation because that becomes an impediment to spiritual growth.
- Practically speaking I blog because my blog can then be used as a resume when people want to see a sample of my writing. I have landed a few paid writing gigs using my blog and e-books as examples of my work.
- I blog because I simply enjoy the act of being creative. In my estimation, to enjoy doing something (with the exception of indulging in addictive behavior) for its own sake is an expression of the true self. By definition this is not the work of the ego.
- I blog because it has become a habit. I have a goal of writing one blog post every weekend. It has gotten to the point where I just naturally sit down at my keyboard on Saturday or Sunday mornings. At this point if I do not do this I feel like I have something important left undone.
- I blog because I feel I have something to say that I think would be helpful to other people who are experiencing situations similar to situations I have experienced. Readers of my blog will know that I write a lot about the topic of shame. In my life I have experienced and to some degree continue to experience an epic journey through this issue. I feel that I have accumulated some insight along the way and I find it meaningful to teach people what I have learned.
- I blog because a part of me enjoys baiting people. I am not particularly proud of this motivation. Obviously this part of me that enjoys baiting (i.e., making other people angry) is my ego. The last few months I have spent quite a bit of time writing blog posts at least partially intended to get a response out of my angry neighbor. Again, I am not proud of this motivation but it would be dishonest for me to deny its existence.
- By contrast, I blog also because I also enjoy honest and civil discussion with people where topics can be thoroughly explored and developed. I would say that the interactions with my angry neighbor although heated at times also served to explore why he believed the things he believed. I found that aspect of our interaction to be informative and interesting.
- I blog because I enjoy being a part of the community of bloggers that exists on the internet. Truthfully, I have not really gotten too deep into this world but I do find it interesting to explore it and to be involved in it from time to time.
- Finally, I blog because I experience a pleasant sense of accomplishment when I publish a completed piece of work. I suppose this is related to the “validation” my angry neighbor accused me of being motivated by. I would point out, however, that although some of this accomplishment is ego gratifying, much of it has to do with the fact that the work itself has become a new thing that did not exist before. True, I feel satisfaction that I had a role to play in this process. But I also feel satisfaction for the created thing itself. It is good to create as God himself acknowledged in Genesis.
That (in a nutshell) is why I blog.