Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On Writing: An Opinion

I've been noticing some readers taking offense at certain things I write about, be it due to content or to an expressed opinion. Because of this, I figure I'll clarify what I think about "morality" in writing and censorship in general: as George Carlin approached comedy (to paraphrase: "comedians can joke about anything they want"), so I approach writing.

Every situation (from sex to violence to drugs to crime) and every perspective (from left to right to theist to atheist), no matter how heinous, nefarious, inspirational, or wonderful, can lend itself to a good story. And good stories deserve to be written, regardless of whether an author is presenting rape as humor (again, using an old Carlin staple), oral sex as despicably evil, racism as no big deal, suicide as acceptable, Mohammed as a cartoon, the Pope as the Antichrist, Superman and Wonder Woman as homosexuals, Hitler as a nice guy, white tube socks as incredibly sexy, or infanticide as a sporting event. Whether or not I'm good enough to write those stories tactfully and effectively is another matter entirely (I'm probably not... but I guarantee that somebody out there can do it).

On top of that, I personally find everything I wrote above to be some degree of repulsive, and this is both my point and not my point... which brings me to my next point (if I've lost you... oh, well):

Just because a plot, a character, or an idea presents itself doesn't mean that its authors or creators believe or espouse what's been presented (I certainly don't believe all the crap I write, nor even "like" all of the characters and situations I've written). The answer to the age-old question of whether life imitates art or art imitates life is easy: both. Welcome to the tautological existence of thought.

And I happily stand within that continuous cycle.

To quote Carlin one last time: "If you don't like it, change the channel."


  1. Great perspective on this issue. I find myself hesitating from time to time with topics to write about, but then I remember that the world of fiction opened up my world to new ideas, good and bad as a child and from that I have learned so much. I have traveled through moral ground and situations through literature that I would never travel through in real life. It gives us a chance to learn, to grow and to understand why these topics are unsavory or uncomfortable for us. In fact, reading topics that are somewhat controversial probably set us further into our high moral ground rather than lower us down to that of the issues discussed in the literature. I admire your fearlessness in your prose and I hope that you continue writing freely. If we all watched over our shoulders when we wrote there would be nothing but horribly bland prose to read.

  2. amen. see now i am getting all religeous on you. smiles. write it unashamed...

  3. Point well taken. What could be more offensive than the idea that we have to censor or constrict our own thoughts on our own blogs? Your blog shows that you take your writing and your readers quite seriously, yourself less so (irrelevance, irresponsibility ...). Of the many blogs I read, yours high up there amongst them, the most attractive feature that will always have me coming back for more is the simple discovery of an honest voice. And if that voice does not sound like my own voice, or say the same things, then what could be better? I mean I am trapped inside my head with my own voice, I do not come here to your blog to tune in an echo of myself. I come here to listen to Jeff.

    So go on and hold forth, good friend. No pre-editing or post-censoring. The day you bite your tongue, I'll change the channel.

  4. Although some of the things you may find "repulsive" include things that I love including cartoon religious leaders and homosexual superheroes I generally agree with your sentiment. That's one of the beautiful things about art and fantasy. It allows not only the impossible to be but it grants terrible, horrible things a safe place to live where they don't harm but help.

  5. I'm no writer but I think I'm astute enough to know that good writing comes from some level of life experience. As does yours. Well, can't speak for the sex bit but you seem to know what you're talking about. Also 'feeling' and being emotionally connected to your characters however fantastic they are. I read loads of online so called 'writers' who are clever or twisty or funny or sexually provocative and violent but few actually convey the emotions of their characters. I don't care if the thing is badly written or worse written in such a convoluted manner than explanation is required in the comment box. I care more that the characters are believable and fleshed out. And I hate censorship of any kind so I'm very glad to hear you persuade disuaders to change the channel. The name of your blog is in itself an oxymoron because there is little irreverence or irrelevance here as far as I can tel

  6. I had to refocus because I lost it when I came to the "incredibly sexy tube socks" - gotta love the 80s, and lets not forget to pair them with EXTREMELY short shorts on men, cotton, with a gym stripe around them.... ahhh, those were the days....

    ANYHOW, I agree, change the channel. quit reading, whatever, no one is forcing anyone.

  7. Devil's advocate is the most entertaining way to make people think. It also causes. . .wait for it. . .communication! The masses want to be asses, perhaps they'll do us a favor and still not be thinking when they jump off the bridge(usually because someone told them to). Again, not being very original today, you do have self-control/free-will. . .try using it! It's, at the minimum, never boring.

  8. What a great post and well-said! I haven't been here in awhile, or really anywhere in the blogosphere due to rough waters, but now am absolutely compelled tobacktrack!

  9. Jeff - This very thing, the fact you write about whatever you choose, from all angles, is what I like most about your blog.

    Not planning on changing the channel.

    "Whether or not I'm good enough to write those stories tactfully and effectively is another matter entirely"

    You are.

  10. I guess some people would think it is bad that I giggle while reading your rape scenes...

  11. white tube socks as incredibly sexy,
    i want to read that post!!!

    this is what my immediate thought was when I read the first line of your post,
    ahhhh fuck em if they can't take a joke!

    SheWrites - VERY WELL PUT!!!

  12. I guess I should read your stuff more often!

  13. i have to admit, i've closed some books because some of the themes were just to over the top for me to read...not that i can't handle it, i just don't care to read it. Shock value doesn't always do it for me, unless it suits the story.

    Love your stuff, and so far i've always thought everything you write is to sell the story, not just for the sake of a sale.

    does that make sense?

  14. Blogger ate my original comment:

    I hope to continue reading your writing for years to come...

  15. Why on earth would we want to change the channel? This one is so interesting.

  16. I agree with Alan!
    Leave editing to other editors...whoever they be. -J

  17. What came to mind was the old debate that swirls around "write what you know." Obviously, this is such a simplistic axiom as to be useless, at least as I see it. There are plenty of writers who write so far outside their ken, their work is as if from another planet (literally). But wrapped up in all that make-believe, fantasy, science fiction, or whatever else you want to call it is their personal experience. To some degree or another, with some story element or another, they are writing what they know, however they happen to know it.

    All that being said, write on. It's a simple matter of choice. As Tom said, the reader doesn't have to read something that offends (or bores). They can just click on the x.

  18. You make some very good points here. Like Lorenzo said, it's YOUR voice I come to hear. I'm not really interested in writing that has no flavor, or point. We all spice our food in unique manners, and if I'm looking for only salt and pepper, I know it won't be found here. It's because of your chosen flavors that come here over and over again. Honesty is hard to come by these days, and it's nice to know a place to find it. And that whole thing about the channel? Absolutely. We have that choice to make, IF we've chosen it, then shut the hell up about what's on it. Preach it, brother! (or not, your choice ;-)


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