The Enemy Waging War Against Your Ideas

The Digital Sea | copyblogger.com

Creative new ideas always have formidable enemies.

Book burning, for example, is a primitive and terrible art. It’s been going on since before Gutenberg set that first type into his revolutionary machine.

In Ray Bradbury’s incomparable Fahrenheit 451, we see a cautionary tale of censorship, power unchecked, and the capricious human heart. He imagined a horrific world where the great works of literature, theology, and philosophy had all but disappeared thanks to books being banned and burned en masse.

Outside of that totalitarian scenario, having obvious enemies can often work out well for ideas.

James Joyce’s demanding novel Ulysses was banned in the UK and the United States. It went on to become one of the most sought-after books of its time, ranked with the 100 Best English Language Novels of the 20th Century, and a single first-edition selling at auction in 2009 for £275,000.

German theologian Martin Luther published radical ideas about the Roman Catholic Church, and got his work collected and publicly burned for his trouble. The burnings only stoked the imagination and intellect of the people of 16th century Europe, which gave birth to the Protestant Reformation.

For you, a less obvious enemy is the one you need to guard your ideas against.

State-of-the-art self-censorship

What would you do if the government censored your ideas? With some form of access to the Internet, odds are it would take you no more than 15 minutes to figure out a workaround. As John Gillmore famously said and the WikiLeaks drama illustrates,

The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.

But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook.

There’s an even more horrible danger today. Something that brings with it no best-selling side effect that those good old book burnings could produce.

We are in the thick of what Bradbury hinted at in 1951, his heinous vision brought to brilliant life, with no need for flames or jackboots or razor wire …

There is more than one way to burn a book. ~ Ray Bradbury

What is this unspeakable danger?

Obscurity.

We live in a world of inexhaustible choice.

We have censored ourselves by creating and wading into an immeasurable and bottomless sea of possibility.

We can find, download, read, listen to, and archive almost anything we desire. That freedom, though wonderful, has left us largely apathetic.

It has buried many great ideas.

We have taken this pill willingly, happily even.

Those flickering literary bonfires now long for the good old days. They realize, poor bastards, that we don’t need them anymore.

The new (and old) way out of obscurity

We’re talking about your ideas here, your business.

This is your livelihood.

If someone put your business on a bonfire, you’d fight. And you shouldn’t lie down and wait as your ideas disappear into the flames of obscurity.

That weird, whispering, voice-in-the-sky that haunted Ray Kinsella in the dreamy fields of Iowa has created two decades of entrepreneurial confusion …

If you build it, they won’t necessarily come.

What then?

You could spend several months (and years) mastering the craft of writing, and applying it to your business.

You could work hard to build and grow an asset that one day works almost effortlessly toward your goals.

You could show up every day and become a trusted teacher, entertainer, and friend.

You could harness this sea of possibility that obscures so many great ideas, to bring yours before the world.

You could approach your marketing with the same intensity of Bradbury’s exiled intellectuals who gave their entire lives to the service, memorization, and promulgation of a single book.

You could …

Will you?

About the Author: Robert Bruce is Copyblogger Media’s Chief Copywriter and Resident Recluse.

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Comments

  1. Robert:

    I like how you started out covering book censorship. As far as science fiction writers go, Ray Bradbury is in the top spot. I read Fahrenheit 451 and saw the movie. I loved it.

    James Joyce is an excellent writer. But when he explored “stream of consciousness” writing with Ulysses – followed by Finnegan’s Wake – he dabbled in the Freudian taboo land of his time-period. You know what? He could have stopped with Dubliners and Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. He didn’t…he wanted to go beyond his boundaries…like you encouraged us to do. Now we have Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake.

    Ayn Rand could have been content to study history and philosophy at a Russian college… She could have told the philosophy professor specializing in Plato, that she loved him… But she preferred Aristotle… She told the professor that her ideas were not yet part of philosophical history – but they will be. Now the world is still reading works like The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged – over 30 years later.

    We should try to go beyond ourselves, even if for our own benefit. Franz Kafka never published anything. It was a friend who published his works, without his consent.

    What could you do? It’s up to your imagination. If we wanted to get inspired, read books like Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill or How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

    Great post. It got me thinking and reflecting.

    Randy

  2. Originality in writing gives me pleasure in reading blogger comment.
    If my writing are being rejected, i will try again till the they except it.

    The ground rule of self-censorship still applies and i’m committed not to destroy my own name. ” ganeshmuthiah’

    Thanks for the quality post. :-)

  3. Hey Robert

    Very insightful post and really has me thinking about my work and my message. I suppose the fact that I gave up a career and a nice salary to follow the path I am on now as an entrepreneur was my personal bold step to make sure that my message was heard. And while it is taking an immense amount of energy and persistence to keep it going, it has been slowing paying off and growing momentum. I suppose the burning desire to see my idea come alive is what is ultimately driving the entire initiative.

    Thanks
    Justin

    • You bet man. Hey, if you haven’t already, check out Brian’s interview of Tim Ferriss:

      http://www.copyblogger.com/imfsp-radio-6/

      There’s a lot in there that covers your current path, and what he did to persevere.

    • That’s a great step you made. Although with modern-day technology we’re buried with information, we’re ALSO offered many ways to find your way through and reach out to the people. If you push through you’ll get we’re you want to be. Just keep an eye on your audience AND yourself. Don’t be affraid to change your ways if you’re not making any (slow) progress.

      I’m with you, man. I also recently gave up my decent paycheck to pursue my own goals and make my message heard.

      Good luck!

  4. Self Censorship, Internet Censorship, and to a growing degree Facebook censorship. Facebook has deleted the accounts – both personal and public- of several artists I know because their work is either controversial or contains some nudity etc (not porn). If you are an artist and paint nudes or have nudes in your work and want to use a social network to interact with other artists and buyers then you need to be on Facebook to some extent. A potential audience of 1/2 billion is tough to not explore.

    Book burning is now the delete key.

    • Brian’s called the unthinking, sole use of social media networking sites “Digital Sharecropping”. You’ve got to have your own real estate (if you want more than just socialization), and from there start chipping away at obscurity.

  5. I wrote a post a few days ago also mentioning farenheit 451, but with a rather opposite view: we are _already_ burning our books and trusting them to internet providers (digital books).

    In a future hypothetical scenario censure and mass control could be much easier — as Mike points out — since it might be done by computers.

  6. Robert,

    Thank you for this masterfully-written piece. I couldn’t hit the Tweet button fast enough!

    I’m intently showing up every day, embracing the sea of possibilities, blogging till the cows come home, and remaining, stubbornly, hell bent on sharing my message.

    Although I would never deem myself a rebel, radical, or revolutionary …

    If someone put my business on a bonfire, I’d fight!

    • Thanks Melanie, it ain’t easy, but it’s a good road we’re all on, right?

      • Darn tootin’, Robert!

        It’s not only a good road we’re on, it’s one we’re paving for posterity. Can’t help but keep my four daughters in the forefront of my mind as I travel this path.

        For today, I’m delighted our paths have crossed. Enjoy your journey!

  7. Great call to action, Robert.

    Thank you.

  8. Marshall Adler :

    Robert, I agree with the tidbit of insight towards the end of your article that we could harness this sea of possibility but it seems like your message didn’t have much of a plot. Most articles that come out of Copyblogger are meaningful with clear cut concepts that we can take and apply to our businesses. That’s why we wait impatiently for the next day’s post to arrive so we can further our education and become better marketers.

    Unfortunately, and this is just my opinion, this article didn’t give any real morals or teach anything of actual value. Telling a story is fine but when there’s no underlying foundation or message to be received it’s just a waste of space and time.

    You’re a good marketer and I listen to IMFSP and you’re a good guy but this article didn’t make the A list. :(

    • Thanks for writing in Marshall.

      Sorry this one didn’t do it for you, but my opinion is that knowing where in the world you stand (digital or otherwise) is a priceless piece of information from which to head to market…

      • Good response Robert. Not every post will connect with every reader. I certainly got value and based on the comments, so did the majority of readers so far. So it definitely was not a waste of time or space :)

  9. Great post Robert and I have to sigh when reading it because I too heard the little voice crying “If you build it…” and that was it. So not true and it is way tougher than it looks. You can be doing so many things right but if you aren’t focused on doing what really makes a difference it ain’t gonna matter. And you can’t quit or get distracted. It’s why I hang around you and Brian and Sonia – keeps me honest.

  10. There is so much to learn in the “sea of possibilities”, online world. Obscurity is reserved for people who think that they had it already and would be contented to argue, interpolate using what knowledge they have retained. They don’t realize that learning grows in seconds. That’s why I subscribe and link with Copyblogger (and other sites) to keep abreast with what the virtual world is sounding off. So far I am benefiting greatly from reading blogs such as this profound one. Thanks Robert. For me, the internet world has become a great marketplace of ideas for everyone and not only for the popular and powerful persons. It’s in the online niche where “even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story” are given equal chance to present their ideas. And yes, as for any successful venture, mastery of the “craft” is very important. I’m glad that I am able to master the online writing craft through the many e-tools that I encountered in the net. Innovations and diversity are great armors against obscurity.

  11. Speaking of the prescient Mr. Bradbury, in 2003 he anticipated one of the ironic paradoxes of the Facebook phenomenon: the dreadful loss of relevance we discover when we reconnect with the friends of our youth. It is contained in the short story “First Day” from the collection “One More More for the Road.”

    I don’t imagine he had the social media revolution in mind when he wrote it, but boy-howdy he sure nailed it with his main character’s final line. For us of a certain age, it’s a tearjerker. I won’t spoil it for you.

    Thanks for your memorable and inspiring post, Bruce. And in answer to your question, yes.

    Jack

  12. Self censorship or self assessment as it turns out to be is the best way to keep yourself on a never ending journey of personal development. The way to fight obscurity, is to identify your own uniqueness and make yourself unusually useful. There is a strong benefit to being best possible self, it helps people to know what to come to you for. The ease of the internet has made it increasingly easy for so many people to just dabble into business trying to be wannabes and make it rich quick. If you ask me, I would say that’s the expressway to obscurity.

    Thanks for sharing.

  13. LOVE this article Robert. You could, you could, you could. Two years ago I read through the book “The Artist’s Way” and of the daily exercises was to write in a journal for 30 minutes every morning as soon as you awaken. The immediate flow of thoughts, feelings, expressions, and words flowing across the paper (no typing! MUST hand write!) Your article put the burning in my soul to reestablish the practice. So many “you could” are lost in the hourglass of time. Perhaps it is the greatest method of self-censorship – time.

  14. “Imagine this is your business….”

    I do not need too. Writing is really part of my business and thank you for inspiring me to change my way of thinking about what I do now – typing, writing, sharing my ideas.

    Happy Holidays!

  15. However, please keep in mind that books that are banned are not always that great in the opinion of many readers.

    Just because a book is banned and becomes controversial does not mean it has any artistic or literary merit.

    V.S. Naipul writes peerless prose and yet his books have not been banned and Naipaul won the Nobel.

    I think we are led astray by what is popular and unpopular rather than merit. That is quite superficial, and sad.

    Many books are banned because they hurt the finer sensibilities of too many people. Just something to consider.

    Writers should strive to bring life to their works rather than being in search of notoriety, which is nonsensical.

    On the other hand, if “truth is a bitter pill to swallow” you end up rubbing a lot of people the wrong way.

    No matter what you do, therefore, you are bound to have your critics. It is a no win situation. What say?

  16. For everything that you write on your blog, someone will always have an opinion on how they feel and why you are wrong. This is why I like blogging so much because it allows you to share your opinions freely.

  17. Excellent article and thank you for sharing! I love your reference to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, which i haven’t seen mentioned in years.

    Push on with the creativity… that’s what I say.

  18. Someone banning the book, the author, the website is just a minor setback. With the development of internet the only information the person can not get access to, is the one he is not willing to know. “Manuscripts do not burn” said Mikhail Bulgacov in his famous “The Master and Margarita”. It was said 80 years ago and even more true today than it was before. Someone is trying to suppress your idea, is just the price you pay for having an original idea, that is someone is afraid of. It comes with a territory. Just like getting a nail in a tire. You don’t quit driving. You get the nail out, patch the tire and move forward. Someone does not like you idea. No big deal. You do not stop think, or speak, just find another audience. Self censorship is where things can turn ugly and 1984 by George Orwell is a good example of that. I forgot who said that, but it goes something like this ”When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”