Is there anything you won’t write about? Name a topic, and there will be numerous websites dedicated to it. Many aren’t exactly mainstream. Of course, some will be written by amateurs, but there will be many others that employ the skills of a professional writer.
Would you, for example, write articles about how anorexics can hide their weight loss from their loved ones? Would you write for a suicide website about the most sure-fire way to top yourself? Would you translate the unintelligible grunts of a white supremacist into passionate and intelligently-flowing prose?
I’m not saying intelligent prose; I’m saying intelligently-flowing prose. In other words, would you lend a bunch of lowlifes some vague respectability by making them sound at least sufficiently well-educated to express themselves succinctly and without grammatical errors?
These websites exist. So would you write for them? It’s money in the bank if you do.
I wouldn’t. I know these are extremes so I doubt I’m the only one to feel that way.
But …what about a project that touts some quite reasonably-held beliefs that simply go against your own? Would you write on behalf of a political party you didn’t support? Would you wax lyrical for a mainstream religious belief you personally had no truck with?
How about the more dubious job specs? Would you write a sales pitch for a health product you knew (but the public didn’t) contained carcinogens? Would you write some glowing blurb for a pharmaceutical product you knew was essentially untested? Would you lend your literary skills to push a staple food you knew was destroying the health of those who consumed it? Few people would castigate you for doing so, because the vast majority buy right into these types of products every single day.
So what does it come down to? Money? If a big pay cheque is the deciding factor, then it brings to mind that old anecdote about George Bernard Shaw:
Shaw was at a dinner party sitting next to an attractive woman. “Madam,” he asked, “would you go to bed with me for a thousand pounds?”
The woman blushed, looked indignant, and shook her head.
“For ten thousand pounds?” he asked.
“No. I would not.”
“Then how about fifty thousand pounds?” he asked.
The woman paused, considering the huge sum of money. “Perhaps,” she replied.
“And if I were to offer you five pounds?” Shaw asked.
“Mr. Shaw!” the woman said, horrified. “What do you take me for?”
Shaw replied: “Madam, we have already established what you are. Now we are merely haggling over the price.”
Perhaps, though, with grey-area writing projects, the real question is not “would you?”, but “could you?” Powerful writing requires not just facts but passion. Anyone can research the necessary data and include or exclude to make a convincing case. However, it is the emotional force behind the argument that lifts it into a higher realm, and you cannot be truly passionate about a product or idea you baulk at ethically.
Personally, I could not take on a writing project that pushes something I didn’t emotionally connect with positively in some small way. I would certainly reject any project I found morally offensive, or that was factually twisted to hide a damaging truth.
Then again, it all depends on what the client brings to the table.
You whore, Pepper.