Why Do We Lie to Ourselves?
Intellectual dishonesty is when we judge others harsher than ourselves. Or when we fail to apply the same standards of evaluation to ourselves that we apply to others.
Others call it a “lack of scientific rigor”. However, we are talking about writers and creators, not scientists. Although scientists can be intellectually dishonest to themselves.
So why do we lie to ourselves? In short, we are biased.
In effect, we are all biased when we failed to apply the same standards to everyone equally in all situations.
For example, when people disregard scientific evidence about climate change when all evidence shows the Earth got warmer, or about how vaccines work despite all the evidence showing they are not harmful, they are being intellectually dishonest.
Likewise, when people criticize one candidate from one political party for moving to another state to run for a senate seat as a “carpetbagger” but when their candidate did the same years before it was “a brave decision”, it is intellectual dishonesty.
The problem with intellectual biases is that it makes it difficult to be taken seriously. We become a joke.
At this year’s Philcon, both guests of honor, Keith DeCandido and Charles Urbach spoke about this in different ways. Whether is those artists who made a name for themselves painting Magic cards and now reject their work as “commercial” or the writer who became famous writing tie-in novelizations and now hides it, it is dishonest.
To themselves, to their fans, and their art.
Again, why do we lie to ourselves?
Are We Embarrassed to Embrace Who We Are?
Writers write, artists draw, and creators create. Simple. We are what we do.
Commercial, genre, or popular art and fiction should not be something to be embarrassed by. Not when we give it our all.
We make art to make a living too. Like Jeff Goings famously said, “real artists don’t starve.” (I love that book).
The separation between commercial and popular fiction is a stupid one. It does not lack less literary value by being popular. Let’s not forget Shakespeare was popular fiction centuries ago.
Besides, don’t we authors rather sell and make a living than live paycheck to paycheck or worse, be ignored by readers?
I know I dream of making best-selling lists, to have a line of fans waiting to have their books signed. That should be every author’s dream. Because there is nothing worse than being ignored by readers.
This brings my next point. Many of my fellow authors (I would know, I have many friends in the writing community and I run a writer’s group at the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia), lie to themselves constantly.
These are the authors who keep telling us they write for pleasure, they write for themselves, and they only want to put their books out there…
Similarly, they say sales don’t matter, that commercial fiction is not for them and that they write because of art or to educate the public.
Science fiction and fantasy, romance and crime, mystery and thrillers, YA and horror, are beneath them…
And then they complain (often) about how their books don’t sell and why people are not reading them. (I thought they say they did not care).
Again, why do we lie to ourselves?
Become Self Aware to Avoid Intellectual Dishonesty
Successful people practice self-awareness. They understand their strengths and weaknesses, as well as their values and goals. Where there is self-awareness there is no place for self-doubt.
Writers, artists, and all sorts of creatives need to be self-aware if we want to be successful.
Self-aware people are not intellectually dishonest because their purpose is self-improvement and self-development. Why lie to yourself? It only hinders progress.
Furthermore, when our actions match our words, people respect us and take us seriously.
Meanwhile, those who are intellectually dishonest are people who are smart, indeed, very intelligent but use their intelligence to manipulate reality to fit their ideas.
Except, most times, their ideas do not match their actions or vice versa. In effect, this is as bad as confirmation bias (when we seek only information that supports our ideas).
Like Socrates, the great philosopher, said twenty-four centuries ago, know yourself because an unexamined life is not worth living.
Thus, if you want to be commercial, go for it. And if you created something popular, enjoy it. Not everyone is so fortunate.
To conclude, if we creatives want to be successful, we must know ourselves and act accordingly.
Reader, do you know intellectually dishonest people? How do you deal with them?