As a writer, I’m forever interested in the origins and multi-layered definitions of words—especially words I haven’t heard of before. “Pixel-fucking” is a term I just learned from a graphic designer friend. Apparently, it describes the way that clients will nitpick a drawing to an absurd degree, requesting that the designer move an element by half an inch, for example, or lighten a color by a single shade: considerations that don’t actually impact the overall effectiveness of a layout, but are nevertheless annoying and even offensive, as it means the client has zero respect for the designer’s time and creative ability. They can’t see the wood for the trees, as it were.
Ghostwriters don’t call this phenomenon pixel-fucking (we don’t generally work in pixels), but the same thing happens in our industry. It tends to present in the form of word choice or syntax—like when a client takes a beautifully constructed sentence that borders on poetry, and mangles it with the insertion of a different word or a run-on phrase that makes the sentence read awkwardly, and nothing at all like the sentences couching it. It’d be like someone dribbling black paint over Bob Ross’s happy little trees on live TV (were Bob Ross still around to grace us with his talent). Sure, the rest of the painting is still beautiful and skillfully rendered, but it’s really hard to appreciate that majestic mountain backdrop with such a glaring error in the middle of the otherwise peaceful stream.
I mean, whatever kind of work we’re talking, you hired a professional for a reason, right? Because you knew you couldn’t do it yourself, or at least not as well as the person you trusted to do it better than you. So let them do their job. Let us do our jobs.
There are so many reasons that pixel-fucking (and its extended family of black sheep cousins) rears its ugly head. Most of them are rooted in control—or a lack thereof. When money is involved, it does funny things to people. Clients think that they’re entitled to services beyond the scope of the clear and explicit contract they previously and in full consciousness signed. They’re unable to acknowledge the creative miracle that has occurred in just a few weeks’ time (that is, the birth of the very thing they said they wanted), when, without the creative professional, it wouldn’t exist at all.
And yes, I know it’s scary. You put your life story on paper, and suddenly it’s out there for the world to read. For the world to judge. But that’s what you wanted, because in an overpopulated world of flash consumerism, you’re fighting to stay relevant. To convince yourself that you matter—that your life has mattered—to anyone other than you.
Ghostwriters (and all other professional creatives) get that … because we want it, too.
Think of it this way. Each of us born with a certain set of gifts, no? Talents and skills, hidden or honed over years of conservatory training. You want a lasting testament to those gifts, for the benefit of everyone who comes after you. (In case you’re doubting, your readers DEFINITELY benefit. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from my war veteran clients about family and my housewife clients about sacrifice. Maybe you’re thinking those two should be switched. Nope. That’s one thing I’ve learned.) Anyway, we professionals have gifts, too—and we’ve chosen to exploit them for financial gain; i.e., “to make a living.” Our legacy is the work we do for you: the product mockups and the fashion designs and the webpage bones and the headshots and the books. It’s how we stay relevant: by making sure that you do.
So, won’t you help us help you? If you’ve hired a freelancer lately, and didn’t tip them upon completion of service, remember it’s never too late. If you’re looking to hire, for the love of pizza don’t quibble over pricing. No one is out to ‘scam’ you: we simply have skills we’ve spent lifetimes developing and we know what they’re worth. You want a high-quality product that makes you stand out—makes you unforgettable—captures you the way you’ve always wanted to be seen. We can do exactly that, provided you leave the black paint at home.