Why The “Positive Writer Declaration”: A Call for Common Decency and, Dare I Say It, Self-Censorship

In my previous blog post, I introduced the Declaration of the Positive Writer, a pledge to oneself that I am proposing be adapted and adopted (with you, my reader's, help) by creative writers. Today, 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.

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