Writing for the Greater Good

Posted: December 2, 2010 in Psychology
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“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius (551-479 BC)

Writing can be that job. The cost of making writing into a career is that sometimes you will have to write just for the money. But your job is writing itself, not your other interests. Every piece of writing you do has the potential to improve your writing ability. This is especially so when you choose a writing task that sends you back to studying the craft of writing.

Independent Film Project Blog

When I started the Independent Film Project blog, I was going to write reports about a film project I was part of. The film fell through and I switched to writing about screenwriting. Of all the kinds of writing, screenwriting seems to be the least promising in terms of future financial gain. To be more specific, the chance of selling a screenplay is much smaller than any other kind of writing. The payoff if you do sell one can be much higher.

I wasn’t trying to make a profit with this blog. I enjoy writing and researching. Screenwriting was one kind of writing I hadn’t studied much. After 25 years of writing, this was an opportunity to get back into studying how to write once again. In the last few months, the articles moved away from screenwriting into more general writing tips.

Writer On Fire Blog

I was never happy with a1audiovideo as my url and Independent Film Project was an off title for me too. I had changed the title of the blog once before and it took a heavy toll on my Alexa ranking.

When I started Writer On Fire, I decided to just go for it and change both the url and title. The Alexa ranking will take care of itself as I keep writing good articles. It started off in 6 millionth place and made it into the 2 millions after only a week. It will be okay. Alexa rankings don’t mean much if nobody is reading a blog, so I’ve been using some of my own tips from the Writer on Fire post Blogging for Fun and Profit.

But I was talking about making money from writing. That’s where the next blog came into the picture.

Motivational Psychology

There are a lot of personal development and motivational psychology sites on the interwebs. Those that can post at least one quality article every week are reporting making an income, sometimes a really good income. I tried writing one psychology article a day for a month and wrote 30 articles. My productivity ranged from zero to 3 articles a day. I could write that kind of site if I only wanted to go for the money.

Creating Yourself

Motivating you to work on your personal development helps you to make your life better, I’m sure. If you’re already doing what you love, it’s perfect for you. But what if you’re not doing what you love? What if the you that you have to pretend to be to earn a living is not the real you? How can you change your life to live more authentically without ending up broke or broken?

There seems to be a larger picture that motivational psychology and personal development sites are pointing toward but not quite getting to. From my university studies in psychology and philosophy, I have some idea what that picture is.

Throughout recorded history, there have been many systems designed to help people lead happy lives as productive members of society. The world changes. Society changes. The systems are replaced by new systems. The world today changes at such a fast pace that no new system will survive long. That’s not a problem. It’s an opportunity.

Whether the old systems were created by ancient greeks, religions, or existentialists (to name but a few), they all used the same tools to put their systems together. If those tools could be made available to all of us, we could create our own systems. We might say that individuality has come into its own, except that a successful system needs a social element. Successful systems need many elements to work and they are all drawn from the human condition, from human needs.

I called this article “Writing for the Greater Good” and I believe that’s what I’ll be doing if I work out how a normal person can work out their own system. Ten years ago, I wrote a 32,000 word “outline” of how we can create our own systems. It was heavy on academic terminology. That’s no good for real people. I decided I would work at some normal jobs for a few years and then return to rework it in normal language. Since then, I’ve been a bookkeeper, labourer, software tester, and hotel clerk. I think I’m ready.

My Psychology Blog

The steps for creating yourself will not easily fit into blog posts of 2000 words or less. That’s not a problem. A chapter in a nonfiction book starts with an overview of a topic and then goes on to explain each step in the summary. A series of articles can perform the same role.

While articles about creating yourself will be the most important, there will also be articles about personal development and motivation. Anything that gives you practice at changing yourself will prepare you for the more difficult task of creating yourself.

I plan to have my psychology site up by the end of the year.

2014 Note

My 2010 plan for a psychology blog about our search for meaning was to grand a plan for a mere blog. The number of outlines for articles got out of hand. I had assumed the idea could be worked out in bits and pieces. It certainly must be made from bits and pieces of existing knowledge, but we already do that in our personal lives. We do it in our writing too. Fiction shows how different kinds of people create themselves. The philosophies of the authors are revealed in their characters. I can do the same.

I still plan to write about the psychology behind personal world building. It will need to be a book. Only a book will be enough to allow creating the big picture of how we create our own big pictures. It’s a huge task. Even the world’s greatest existential philosopher, Martin Heidegger, could only conclude with a metaphor. We wander paths in the wood hoping to find a clearing where our lives have meaning.

My paths in the wood will be my novel. My clearing will be a non-fiction book. I don’t expect a psychology of philosophy book will be a good seller. I could be wrong. There have been novels written about characters searching for meaning that have done very well. Even those with magic helping the characters sometimes become best sellers. I don’t understand that. The only real magic is in how we are able to change how we see ourselves and our world. Hermann Hesse wrote the same kind of stories without magic. His books continued to do well after his death and were used by the baby boomers in the sixties. He never published a non-fiction book of his philosophy.

Ideally, I could be another Hermann Hesse. But I’m not him. He lived between the worlds of the upper class and middle class. I live between the worlds of the middle class and working class. He lived in a stable world interrupted by world wars. I live in an unstable world caused by rapid change due to exponential knowledge growth and a world economy that keeps flopping into one recession after another. His characters choose between stable careers. We choose between careers that could be gone tomorrow. Love is still the same and can endure anything if it’s strong enough. It’s the meaning we get from earning our livings that is in jeopardy.

Only I can decide what I will write and publish as I search for my own meaning. Novels for sure. More short stories are inevitable. The non-fiction book on our search for meaning will get written. I will only publish it if I feel it gives a definitive answer. That’s a tough criteria. Hundreds have written that kind of book, failed to give a good answer, and published anyway. Maybe Stephen King is right and it’s the quest that matters more than reaching the goal (end note on the Dark Tower series). It’s a good thing I enjoy writing fiction.


Article by Ivan Izo. Published Dec. 2, 2010. Updated June 10, 2014.

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