“The hack condescends to his audience. He thinks he’s superior to them. The truth is, he’s scared to death of them or, more accurately scared of being authentic in front of them, scared of writing what he really feels or believes, what he himself thinks is interesting. He’s afraid it won’t sell. So he tries to anticipate what the market (a telling word) wants, then gives it to them.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art, DEFINITION OF A HACK
This little beauty resides in the ‘Sacred Texts’ section of The Important Things. It became extremely relevant to my life as I started creating things like blog posts, but also applies to all other communications in a persons’ life.
The definition given by Mr. Pressfield hits a chord when I think of many of the books I have read, podcasts I listen to, or even people I am around. It seems to be so easy to notice when someone else is not being authentic. Detecting inauthenticity in someone else—and recognizing it for what it is—is the easy part. What is more elusive, is when we detect inauthenticity in ourselves and fail to recognize it for what is it.
Both situations we are detecting inauthenticity, but in the latter situation, we fail to label it correctly.
There are many obvious reasons why someone would be inauthentic (one is listed above in the quote) and I can go on a completely different blog binge about inauthenticity as it relates to existentialism and what Jordan Peterson has written about speaking the truth. However, I will save that for another time, probably soon, and instead talk about that feeling of fear that causes inauthenticity. Elaborating that fear will hopefully help me, but also could help you put the feeling into words. When the fear is defined more clearly it becomes easier to see, and if it’s easier to see it becomes more defeatable.
So, the author is scared to death of his audience and he writes inauthentically to sell to them. Here, he loses his soul. Why is it so easy to give up your soul? Because to write authentically is to take a deep and personal part of yourself, a part that has probably not been in the eye of other people, and place it in front of other people to ridicule. Sure some may exalt it. However, you will probably mostly hear criticism, especially if it is any good.
The author is taking his secret weapon, which in hiding is still a secret weapon, and now actually testing it on the battlefield where it could be revealed to be a complete dud. This is the fear. Being ridiculed by others, to your face, is painful. It is enough to stop any project. However, you are not a lesser man (or woman). You are the greater. And you became the greater when you started writing authentically. I don’t normally quote scripture, but here goes;
“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”