“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” –Mark 8:36
I was never any good at public relations. Mind you, I was never one of those who believed that all public relations people had to be liars. No, I know that public relations is all about relationships. And to cultivate good relationships you have to be honest. Well, sort of.
Working in public relations means you represent your employers pretty much all of the time. It forces you to socialize and interact with people whom you would otherwise not have anything to do with. You have to find common ground–or make common ground–with people who are important to your cause. And you find yourself doing things and saying things that often, well, just isn’t you.
I was a square peg in a round hole. Come to think if it, that’s been me pretty much all of my life. But I had one other problem. I had a transparent face. People pretty much knew all the time what was going on in my head. So it’s not enough to pretend to be someone you’re not; you have to be good at pretending. I wasn’t.
Well, despite that disadvantage, I got along in life. And I find myself giving advice to my kids along the line of, “Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut,” and “You are a professional. Dress the part.” There’s nothing wrong with that advice, but a great deal of success in this world is presenting yourself as the person your employers, your clients, your customers (etc.) want you to be. They don’t need to know every dirty little secret that goes on in your life. And so it is actually decent advice to, indeed, keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut.
Unless you are a writer. And even more so if you write a blog, or as I used to do, write a column. Try writing a religion column for 18 months every other week and see if you can come up with stuff that won’t rankle anyone. It wasn’t good PR. But from a newspaper standpoint, controversy sells papers. And so the writer in me found a home.
So what does this have to do with souls? What is a soul, and how does one sell it? Many of my Christian friends would say that the soul is what goes to heaven when you die. Then when Jesus returns, the souls inhabit a new body that is given them.
Well, I don’t believe exactly that, but that’s for another time. I had always heard that “The only thing you can take with you when you go to heaven is your character,” and “Character is who you are when you are alone in a room.” In essence, it’s the real you. And to me, that’s what a soul is.
Selling one’s soul is, in essence, being willing to surrender who we are for financial or other gain. Another word for that is prostitution. What makes prostitution so bad, from my perspective, is acknowledging that your soul is worth nothing–or at least only the little bit of money you make in the encounter. If your soul (character) is all you take to heaven, then it must be pretty important. A great deal more important than a hundred bucks, or a new job, or even a marriage partner.
What about writing? Can one sell one’s soul to become a successful writer? Of course, although I may dispute what constitutes success. If it’s all about money, then go ahead and write porn. Or allow them to turn your masterpiece that you just spent six years writing into more schlock for the marketing mill.
But you and I know, as writers, that who you are is reflected in the words you put on that page. It’s your character there for the world to see. It’s your soul. And so I heartily encourage you to be honest and open when you write. Talk about things that are significant to you. And stick to your guns when someone wants to buy it and make it into something it isn’t.
After all, your soul is worth a lot more than that. Isn’t it?