About a year ago, I was asked if I would like to write a review of a particular film for the website of an independent cinema here in Montréal. It was a film that had the entire world talking after its premiere at one of the high-profile international film festivals, and this particular cinema just so happened to be one of the first and few in Canada set to screen it. Having my name under its review would have undoubtedly brought me a fair amount of my own publicity, and the potential for increased viewership was enormous.
After a brief consideration of the offer, I declined…but why?
Given the subject matter of the film, I felt that it crossed too many boundaries in all areas of my life.
Morally, the film went against many things in which I believe and by which I try to live my entire life. I was not ready to compromise fundamental beliefs of any kind for the sake of publicity and increased viewership, and am certain I never will be. My values, whether they come from my secular life or my spiritual one, are non-negotiable. The proposal arrived in my inbox only a few months after I reaffirmed to certain beliefs and values, and I felt that accepting it would be a hypocritical step backwards into a lifestyle I had only just resolved to put behind me.
Artistically, I am not yet at the point where I have enough clout to write whatever I want and get away with absolutely all of it. Writing a review for this particular film at this point in my writing career would have probably done more harm than good in the end for a few reasons. A positive review would have meant praising a film whose main attributes went against my aforementioned fundamental values, whereas a negative one would have meant compromising those values anyway to be able to write an actual opinion on the film in the first place. In either case, none of my efforts would have produced something well-written because there would have been discordance between the writing and my actual perceptions.
Professionally, I still rely on a paycheque from not one but two high-profile industry leaders (one in finance, the other in technology) for my daily bread, and having my real name associated with this sort of thing would have been detrimental to my professional reputation. A person’s online presence can greatly impact their professional life, after all, and I am not in a position to lose either one of my jobs for the sake of an easier road to becoming a full-time writer.
It all boils down to writing with integrity. Whatever the craft requires you to write, I think doing true justice to the art of writing means adhering to your principles when you sit down to write, and not selling out your beliefs and values for the sake of becoming well-known. I have a passion for writing and I want to spend that passion on writing on subjects in which I truly believe and on subjects that I do not feel the need to hide from or justify to anyone in my life. Of course I dream of becoming a known and acclaimed writer one day, and I am willing to put in the necessary efforts to get as close as I possibly can to achieving that dream. I may or may not ever be paid for my writing, but at least I will be secure in the knowledge that I never compromised my integrity to gain recognition and popularity.