Guest post contributed by Orin Romanowicz.
Where does the responsibility to self-censor begin and end in the craft of creative writing?
Everything I EXPLETIVE write could be a public censor’s worst EXPLETIVE nightmare. Every EXPLETIVE , EXPLETIVE and EXPLETIVE I say is going to offend somebody. Every blood-splattered brain I write about will offend someone. If the blood-splattered brain doesn’t offend, then maybe the blood-splattered brain belonging to a EXPLETIVE SLUR or a EXPLETIVE SLUR would. Perhaps a bloody brain from a EXPLETIVE SLUR or an elderly catholic priest on Viagra who was capped while EXPLETIVE a twelve-year-old boy in the EXPLETIVE while in the ironically called rectory. Maybe I should self-censor my story of a teenage prostitute endowed enough to blacken the eye of his johns with his enormous EXPLETIVE after EXPLETIVE them in the EXPLETIVE . Where does the responsibility to self-censor begin and end in the craft of creative writing?
In the previous paragraph, I intentionally added enough information to offend a slew of thin-skinned and unimaginative critics. A redacted version is presented to keep the majority of my reader’s blood pressure at a respectable level. However, there is enough not blacked out to allow the critic’s self-righteous hammer to come crashing down upon me. So, my question is, should I feel obligated to self-censor and will this self-censoring inhibit my creativity?
Should I be afraid of what he thinks of my story? I think the answer to that question is yes. And no.
Yes, because I want him to read what I right. Oops, a little slip up there. I want him to read what I write.
If I feel the need to write it, he better damn well read it. Read it with an open and unbiased mind, (a little joke there, open and unbiased). I want him to absorb the data I’m presenting. I want him to gather the information and feel the emotions I’m projecting and really experience the world he lives in, as I perceive it.
So, yes. I should self-censor so he can feel secure in the knowledge that I will do everything in my power not to offend. Not to disturb the hornet’s nest. I’ll maintain the status quo and do nothing to try and change the world.
Perhaps I should just get in line and bitch about the bitching. I’ll remove the creativity gene from my mind and write what I think he wants to hear. I’ll write the truth as he sees it and not my truth. My truth has no place in the world of creative writing. What was I thinking?
No! Fuck that!
Let me be clear. Common sense is involved here, (a very subjective term). Like with any superpower, the power to write your truth comes with certain responsibilities. Some are laws. Yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater is illegal. It is considered dangerous speech. Dangerous speech is not protected by the first amendment according to the Supreme Court’s 1919 decision in the case Schenck v. the United States. Some self-censoring is required.
Don’t confuse Dangerous Speech with Hate Speech. Hate speech is legal. For example, it’s legal for me to call a group EXPLETIVE EXPLETIVE SLUR who are too old to be useful to society, and a EXPLETIVE useless piece of EXPLETIVE. This is considered hate-speech. It is illegal for me to encourage my readers to search for and shoot, hang or otherwise incite violence against the EXPLETIVE EXPLETIVE SLUR who is too old to be useful to society, and a EXPLETIVE useless piece of EXPLETIVE. This is considered dangerous speech. Don’t do that.
Some responsibilities require the writer to know his audience.
What am I trying to convey to this audience? Am I trying to persuade the audience to take action for or against something? If so, then it would be irresponsible of me to self-censor too much. My call will go un-answered because it just doesn’t create the requisite oomph to move forward.
However, if I don’t self-censor enough, I could be guilty of dangerous speech. If my call to action incites a violent act against someone or some group, then I have behaved irresponsibly and am now guilty of a crime. That would put a damper on my day.
The writer also needs to know how he will handle the positive feedback, (for me, parades and confetti). Or, how he’s going to handle the social media mob that may call for his lynching, (I will probably run away and shed crocodile tears). This knowledge is not a requirement but good foresight before an aspiring writer disturbs the hornet’s nest with his truth.
Yes, I should be held responsible for what I write. But, should I also be held responsible for how you read it?
For example, who caught the heavy sarcasm in the first part of this post? How many read it literally and didn’t catch the sarcastic tone? If you didn’t, is it my fault? Certainly, I could take the blame. My writing was obviously too subtle. My choice of words too generic. Or, perhaps my writing style too inept to show you my utter disdain for status-quo.
Who noticed that I have been using the masculine personal pronouns throughout this post? If you are offended by this, why are you offended? Should I be accused of being a sexist because I did not include any feminine pronouns? Should I be required to defend why I wrote it the way I did to try and appease the critics who were not my target audience? I say no. Maybe they just… don’t …get it?
If I don’t self-censor enough then I am in danger of committing a crime. If I self-censor too much, then I won’t be able to stir the required emotion to toughen up an overly sensitive society. It’s up to the individual writer to self-censor or not. Choose wisely.
Does self-censoring inhibit my creativity?
Not at all. It only makes me more aware of the hornets in the nest.
Self-censor responsibly … disturb the nest.
Orin Romanowicz is a 1983 Graduate of 29 Palms High School in California. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1984 and was stationed in multiple countries around the world. He was honorably discharged from active service in 1993. After throwing a dart at a map the decision was made to move to Cheyenne, WY. Romanowicz managed a Pizza Hut in Cheyenne for 5 years before being hired on with the Union Pacific Railroad as a conductor. After transferring to the coal line he commuted from Cheyenne to South Morrill, NE. for 19 years.
The Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment program (Chapter 31), is sending Romanowicz to school to become a novelist/screenwriter. This is the first step in what will eventually turn into a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from UNLV.
Visit him on his blog Roman’s Ruminations (orinwromanowicz.com) where he will welcome you to his opinions, rants, and ruminations.