Doing your best can be the worst thing you can do for the world.
I was pondering how I market my books – and I have a hatred of marketing. The soulless statistics, the cold calculations, the degradation of inspired writing into pandering prose. There’s something about marketing that is meaningless, just moving units to consumers without any purpose but money.
I also love marketing. The thrill of working the calculations out! The joy of optimizing to get it just right! Picking the perfect keywords! There’s a thrill of the game to get it right – not even to win but to do it the best you can!
That experience jarred loose some other theories, and I want to discuss the fact that a lot of evil in the world can come from people who just enjoy playing the game. Oh they may do evil as well, they should be aware of the repercussions of what they do, but sometimes they’re just playing their game because its fun.
Think of all the people optimizing social media for hits and engagement and creating chaos. Yes there are people seeking profits and covering their backsides, but I’m sure many a person is just enjoying optimizing. The thrill of doing something right can miss that it’s also very wrong.
My fellow writers and I often complain about pandering authors, but aren’t some formulaic authors just into getting the formula right? Pandering and making money is a challenge, a challenge that must appeal to many. So sure, they may churn out books many would decry, but how many are also just enjoy working out the best way to pander?
As this thought ping-ponged around my head before it emerged in this post, I realized how much of my behavior is the joy of getting it right. My job is Project and Program Management and Process Improvement, and it’s just goddamn fun to figure how to make stuff work. Recoding Seventh Sanctum, frustrating (and oft interrupted the last year) was still amazing to figure how to get it all right. My Way With Worlds series has a formula to it that I had fun figuring out so I can deliver what my audience wants.
I’m a person who enjoys the game, but I’m just less evil and more inclined to moral insight than some people (thanks to a long interest in theology and psychology).
So I’m not up for saying people who “play their game” have to be forgiven for the wrongs they do. There are many dangerous things in this world we need to stop or regulate for our survival, and motivations don’t change that. But it may help us prevent evil by understanding how innocent drives can lead to great dangers.
It may also let us notice before we do something wrong. Because I’m sure there’s a game we all love playing, and that love might keep us from noticing the repercussions of our choices . . .
Doing things right can go very wrong.