Comments on "The Declaration of the Positive Writer"
Positive Writers' Ethics Project
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comment by: Dave:
In reading this, I am taken back to this past spring, when I read Stephen Baxter's "Space". This book had a profound impact on me, while I was going through a tough time.
My life was surrounded by moments which would bring even the most stalwart spirits down. I was pulled down slowly from feeling good about myself into becoming quite depressed.
During this time, I read this book. As I read it, I couldn't help but think of the futility of life and everything. The book was in fact somewhat depressing on top of everything else I was going through.
I was grateful when the author was able to finally give some level of relief to me with a somewhat hopeful ending. It was a book that I found difficult to read and finish, and some of it I attribute to the authors delivery.
He told a fine story, but it proved to me that writers do have the ability to affect the emotions of the reader, even when unintended.
I do believe this is a good idea and I do believe that it is a worthy topic for debate if not for whole hearted adoption!
comment by: John:
I wish to offer my own thoughts on this well-meaning and well written declaration. First, I must say that while I feel that so much is subject to interpretation, I agree with the general tone and its presentation. Certainly, positivity around you fosters positivity internally and vice versa. As writers, we must take responsibility for the implied effect on those who read, view, or engage our stories and hopefully for the better.
As for limiting ourselves to the realm of "good" I must disagree that we need avoid unwelcome subject matter. The skill lies in presenting in such a way as to turn that towards good. And since that is so difficult many writers may choose instead to sensationalize those topics for the purpose of profit or furthering their careers. Writers can choose to "use their powers for good" if you will. Isn't that the choice we hope the hero will make?
comment by: Irwin Berent:
First, this Declaration is, of course, a work in progress. And as people post comments and work together on this, a much-expanded and revised, indeed on-going, version will develop. In direct response to your comment, I would observe that there are strong, motivational, influential movies that have dealt with all sorts of controversial issues in a responsible way -- that is, in a way that any reasonable and thoughtful person would say is not incendiary, crude, or pornographic. But that doesn't mean he or she can't deal with those issues; nor does it mean that the work cannot perhaps even offend. It is a question, though, of how you go about offending -- if that is what you want to do. I mean, you can write provocatively and thoughtfully in such a way that forces people to see things from a different or uncomfortable view but that is still not, in itself, nasty or mean spirited or disgusting or debasing. There are, in short, charged issues.
comment by: Charles Malcolm:
Outstanding idea! I would only add that there are those who will argue that if writers have to limit what they write just to "good" or "positive" things, they won't be able to deal with many of the social, political, and even economic issues that are, in themselves, sometimes rather nasty and unpleasant. Are you then suggesting that those issues shouldn't even be dealt with in, say, movies and fiction?
comment by: Irwin Berent:
Why The "Positive Writer Declaration": A Call for Common Decency and, Dare I Say It, Self-Censorship
I want to explain a bit more about why I believe such a declaration is vitally important.
The fiction-writing and screenwriting communities — indeed any creative-arts professions — generally miss the opportunity to formally and overtly promote the usefulness of self-censorship that is reasonable and appropriate — namely when the writer's/artist's honest evaluation of his work suggests a probable negative impact that is potentially dangerous and that could be avoided by revisions that would retain the overall original intended point.
While every group wants to distribute their products more widely and, presumably, to make more money at what they produce, most do not focus on advocating a common sense of decency. That is, a sense of courtesy towards one's fellow man — a courtesy in which the writer/artist treats his readers/audience as though they were all his closest relatives and most respected friends...all, as if his mother and father...all, as if his most revered and loved relations...in short, as if they were all his Brothers and Sisters.
The writer/artist may care deeply about how, say, his child might be affected by being exposed to some particular danger or vulgarity or questionable principle or dogma, or about how someone he respects would regard misbehavior on his part; yet some creative writers and other creative artists often produce their own creations with seeming disregard for what might be the creations' negative effects upon their readers/audience.
And just as important, if not moreso, they often fail to concern themselves with how much their works could be made to engender positive results, inspiring, building, empowering, strengthening, uplifting, enhancing, beautifying; missed opportunities to inspire, to teach, to enrich — indeed, to remove ignorance or hate — are surely as indecent and shameful as ignoring potential negative effects. There is a certain crassness to such a careless disregard for the larger implications (and the wondrous potentials) of one's own creations. And to me, it is dishonest — untrue to ourselves, untrue to our fellow human beings. We have given up part of our souls in the interest of a hollow self-satisfaction ("Look at the work of art I've created!" or "Look how much money I'm getting paid for this!" or "Look how many people like what I'm doing!"), exchanging true respect — and self-respect — for fame, fortune, or flattery, fooling ourselves into thinking that we really care, or care enough.
But I do not bring out the "c" word without great care. Censorship is almost never appropriate when it is in the hands of government. But there are times when it is often not only appropriate but morally necessary that it be applied (to oneself) by the individual and (to children) by real parents. (I say "real parents," because governments and other institutions, all too prone to becoming paternalistic, should not be given authority that only actual parents should have.) The individual has the right and the need to censor himself when he looks at the product of his labor and concludes, honestly, that its potential for harm is unnecessary and inappropriate. And a parent rightfully has the authority, and sometimes obligation, to censor as he/she sees fit in the interest of the child. And groups that promote or monitor creative expression are certainly reasonable to encourage the promotion of common decency and self-respect as well as inspiration and beauty.