Friday, November 6, 2009

Ch. 43 - Copy/Paste

Susan Ellen didn't want her book to be just a regular diet book. She wanted it to be a lifestyle book - a bible for new age-y women who were ready to make a change in their lives. However, she still wanted to title it "How to Get Off the Rollercoaster of Dieting" because, and this is no lie, her favorite ride at amusement parks were rollercoasters. I think she thinks she invented the idea of relating life's cyclical nature to a roller coaster.

When I first started working on the book, Susan Ellen gave me a pile of papers she said were her notes. She informed me that they were all notes she had written and it was my job to place them together in chapters. Here's what consisted of her "notes":

- ripped-out articles from "Prevention Magazine"

- magazine ads for ProActive

- organic diet bar wrappers that have Buddhist phrases written on them

- pictures of diamonds

- articles printed from dieting websites that end in ".biz" or were later shutdown due to misinformation

For a while I was using these things as references and writing the book from Susan's own words. Well, actually Susan's own words would be this: dhgjarhgdfjkslghsdfjklghsdjkl, but you know what I mean.

However, during a review of the chapters, she would look at what I had written versus her notes and ask why this specific phrase wasn't included. She told me to just copy whatever what written on her "notes" and just "organize" it, not "rewrite" it. I gave up at that point and just did what she asked. Fuck her. She's the one who's going to look bad, not me.

I was working on the book one evening and started thinking about plagiarism. I remember in high school, one teacher said that every teacher in the world had access to a special computer where you can scan an essay and check if it's plagiarized. I don't think that's true, but as I just typed that, I think maybe it is. I don't want to take my chances. That teacher was really scary.

My thoughts continued to wander and I pictured the authors of these articles I was copying eventually suing Susan Ellen. I then pictured Susan Ellen trying to defend herself and how easily she could say "Well, I had a ghostwriter and it was the ghostwriter who plagiarized." Holy fuck.

I was, what, a few months out of college? Could you imagine getting sued at that point? Needless to say, I started to freak the fuck out.

I called her the next day and reached her voicemail. I just unloaded everything. I told her I didn't feel comfortable just copying from other articles and that it's plagiarism and I didn't think it was right. I left the apartment and went for a walk. I came back and saw she had left me a voicemail. She told me a story of how she was on an airplane once and she sat next to the beauty editor of a fashion magazine. She told me the editor always took her ideas from other people's ideas and "that's what people do". She told me she was really hurt that I would accuse her of plagiarizing ("Eh- I can't even pronounce the word and I'm not quite sure what it means"- an actual quote.). She was upset that I was upset with her. She then desperately pleaded me to never stop working for her because she needed me to keep her life in order.

This is the point of this blog, that if this blog were a one-person show, I would sit at the edge of the stage and say, "How can I keep someone else's life in order if I can't even keep my OWN life in order?"

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