To my chagrin, anybody claims to be a writer these days. Just as everybody wants to ride the speaking /coaching gravy boat!
A woman who has plagiarized content into a chapter and has got it inserted into a book - which is a series of chapters 'authored' by different people - through her social networking skills calls herself an author. In the same vein, journalists turning compilations of their articles into book form are being called authors.
People writing 140 incoherent characters on Twitter, fudging posts on LinkedIn, writing elaborate updates on Facebook are staking a claim to the honour.
Industries that are not technical, but are people centric are easy victims to a jaundiced eye treatment from us. We effortlessly club the sectors of Hospitality, Advertising, Writing, even Anthropology, Psychology (Applied, not Clinical); Art and the like into areas that we think do not require advanced skill and technical qualification. We completely disregard the almost scientific approach these fields, too, apply to their strategic and tactical functions.
And what a folly it is to cultivate such a mindset! Ask a chef who has earned his Le Cordon Bleu stripes by gruelling over demanding ranges and whimsical palates. Ask the advertiser who must be able to understand the demographic effect on consumer behaviour, study mindscapes shaped both by culture and fads and gauge the pulse of the client to deliver copy and artwork that ensnares the consumer interest and loosens the purse strings.
To my personal annoyance, Public Relations, especially in the Hospitality Industry, is a free parking zone for anybody – from a Guest Relations Executive, a Sales Representative to an HR resource or the Executive Assistant.
Nothing wrong with that! But please get enough educational background and experience in the field and then merrily jump in. After all, however flossy, flashy, fun or fickle our work may seem to you, it involves a lot of hard work, with refined strategy and tactical application of established techniques and methodology. Yes, it is not just about looking natty, talking smooth and shaking hands.
The same is happening with the legion of speakers and life coaches who claim to have the power to help you reclaim your life, find divine meaning and discover the simply good life of renunciation - all the while, shamelessly attempting to fill their coffers on the might of regurgitated, recycled age-old data that has been floating in the stratosphere of recorded literature. While such evangelists are appearing on the horizon of almost every industry, these good folks fail to add anything new, novel or of lasting value - unabashedly reaping the fruit of somebody else's labour.
We don’t do this with essentially old world professions – think law, medicine, engineering. Why do we think writing or photography or even fashion designing is any less a craft that requires focused education and hours of practised skill!
In the past, Freud, Jung or Adler wrote path-breaking books but they were primarily psychoanalysts who also recorded their researches, findings, experiments on paper.
Even today, an APJ Abdul Kalam or Sheryl Sandberg or Howard Schultz or any other heavyweight from any industry may pen down bestsellers - either on their own merit or through ghost writers - but they have predominantly been recognized for being the businessman, technocrat, Statesman that they are; who also incidentally have a way with words. Secure in their roles, they do not make any false claims.
Amidst my social media circles, I see true blue authors burning the midnight oil, or getting up with the larks at the crack of dawn, laboriously chugging away on their desk for larger parts of their exhausting days to write their books that they wish to get published, distributed and read, but more importantly earn from. They and their ilk need to be lauded and their tough ladder to success emulated.
I dabble in writing and I know it is not an easy job. I have been on the broad side of the mike and I know it is such a monumental task to fight your own fears and inhibitions and then come out speaking engagingly in public.
First learn to pick-up/use the artillery (in case of the writer it is the proverbial pen), shoot an enemy (fell a competitor with your brilliance), raise your flag on a summit (pursue your goals to get the ultimate recognition), get wounded (face failure), relearn and return to the battlefield before you bestow upon yourself the title of a writer or coach or whatever else that may have taken your fancy.
Today, anybody who has drunk a few good wines socially wants to be considered an oenology expert. A gourmand who can ladle out passably tasty dishes claims to be a respected chef with aspirations of becoming a TV or YouTube celebrity or even starting their own under-the-bridge eatery.
And don’t even get me started on art and music and film and food critics. We all, with our substandard two-bits, put out on our Twitter handles or Facebook pages, would like to strut about like able, knowledgeable critics who have studied the subject and know as much about it as the people practising that field. There was a time when the badge of a critic brought in fear and respect amongst those that were reviewed; enough to get them to deliver better and above bar.
Anybody who clicks a photo for his instagram feed or plays around with his camera phone thinks he’s a photographer – to the utter displeasure of the professional photographers who have spent a lifetime learning the technicalities, the art and science behind their profession and have spent a fortune investing in their state of the art equipment.
Same seems to be happening with musicians and fashion designers. Every person who can sing in tune; heck, even those who sing quite off-key but still go ahead and upload their mishmash or dubsmash if you please on YouTube think they are the next best thing after Sting or Sir Bono.
Any woman of wealth courtesy an affluent spouse but with no real qualification, men who have grown up on a staple diet of couture glossies, and those innumerable ladies at leisure with the luxury of free time shoved in their uber luxe and over-sized handbags love to brand themselves as fashion designers. They then go ahead and float labels, host parties to get media attention, rip-off designs from magazines or the runways in far off places (whatever is more difficult to trace back to) and hand it over to the seamstress in their hole-in-the-wall sweatshops – and for such sham they merrily get themselves a calling card of a designer.
These days everybody wants to be the next serial entrepreneur. The goals are misplaced – they being easy money, quick (even if short-lived) recognition, quick gains, pseudo popularity, two minutes of fame as against novel products, innovations that promise to bring value to the society and credible standing.
For this and more, I detest the growing breed of spineless, unskilled, unzealous cretins and zero-conscience easy-gainers who do not bat an eyelid before snaking their way into positions and posts that others spend a lifetime to attain through hard work, perseverance and purely on merit.
On stolen thoughts, plagiarized ideas and filched business plans we go ahead and audaciously label ourselves as Thought Leaders, Visionaries and Entrepreneurs. It is quite dismal to note that we end up slotting ourselves into such newly coined words as ‘Voluntourism’ and ‘Humanitarian Douchebaggery’ to define our lack of ethics.
It is a reflection of our society in which Kim Kardashian is one of the most followed Twitter personalities. A society that does not recognise real talent, does not reward excellence is a dying, sick society.
Let it be a 2016 resolution for us that we will pursue excellence, give hard work and merit its due and earn our stripes first before embellishing our calling cards, curriculum vitae and virtual profiles.
Before you embark on the path you have envisioned for yourself in 2016 and beyond, let this be the resolve you start your journey with. Have a wonderfully productive and meaningful year ahead!
Picture Courtesy - Google Images