Wednesday, 18 April 2007

It's True: Creative Writing can make You go Crazy

I'm sure by now the people who read this blog will be aware of the college shootings in Virginia, USA. If not, then you need to watch the news more often and look beyond the weekly edition of Heat magazine for news information.

One thing that has emerged from this horrible event is that the gunman was part of a creative writing class. AOL has published some of his writings that have come via a fellow student. I am somewhat sceptical of the authenticity of his work, mainly because I wrote better work when I was 12. But we shall come onto that later. The comments upon the news story are revealing in themselves. One commenter says this "porn" should not be published by such a worthy source as AOL. Will this person think twice about renting a film such as Teaching Mrs Tingle or reading Stephen King's novella The Body because it contains such examples of imaginary "porn"?

So, what do these pieces of writing have to say? One features a 13 year old boy with stepfather issues and the second one is the adventures of under-age gamblers in a casino who get caught by their hated schoolteacher. First of all, the quality of these pieces is....well....shit. Take away the striking images conveyed by his word choice and you have some badly written tripe whose author is probably an extreme loner. As the America media is never tired of pointing out, we have to watch out for those ticking time bombs.

If I was at school I probably would have been labelled a 'ticking time bomb'. Why? Because my creative fiction pieces were not very far off what Cho Seung-Hui wrote. I once received the top grade in the class for a piece of work which, after numerous violent acts, ended with the protagonist being shot in the head. Several pieces of work included themes of rape, self harm, murder, torture and suicide. As far as I was aware I was never considered at risk to myself or other pupils. Not once was I referred onto any counselling or asked to attend such a thing. Out of interest, a boy in the year above me wrote an excellent short story about an ETA bombing. I wonder if his work would still be as highly praised as it was when I was at school six years ago?

Bringing this back to my original point, what benefit is examining this guy's attempt at creative writing? His description of being introverted and not wishing to be very sociable sounds like many creative writers I've met. Writing is a strictly self-centred business and you get used to being on your own. In this case all it means that in the event of this college shooting a legacy has been left behind. Some people leave internet blogs behind. Others leave suicide notes.
Cho Seung-Hui left behind some badly written pieces of creative writing. On the grand scale of things; does it really matter? 32 students and professors are dead for the simple reason they turned up to class on time. Trying to create a stereotype for these kind of murders is not going to help.


BigRedBall said...

You're right, these things are over-analysed, and it's impossible (and undesirable) to predict likelihood to spree-kill from a personality profile or particular type of creative work.

I think the most valuable thing anyone's said on the whole affair is this, originally written after the 9/11 attacks.

Watch as Jack Thomson and the like have already blamed video games; conservative hawks have already blamed VT's anti-gun policy (because massacres are no fun when you get shot by someone else, clearly), and surely literature will come under fire in the same way at some point.

Read the full version by following the link to BoingBoing.

Why the shootings mean that we must support my politics

Many people will use this terrible tragedy as an excuse to put through a political agenda other than my own. This tawdry abuse of human suffering for political gain sickens me to the core of my being. Those people who have different political views from me ought to be ashamed of themselves for thinking of cheap partisan point-scoring at a time like this. In any case, what this tragedy really shows us is that, so far from putting into practice political views other than my own, it is precisely my political agenda which ought to be advanced.
Not only are my political views vindicated by this terrible tragedy, but also the status of my profession. Furthermore, it is only in the context of a national and international tragedy like this that we are reminded of the very special status of my hobby, and its particular claim to legislative protection. My religious and spiritual views also have much to teach us about the appropriate reaction to these truly terrible events.

Anonymous said...

Hey, it's Melissa aka cerulescent from LJ. I found your blog and so I am going to start reading it. :) It is very interesting so far. Anyhoo, just wanted to drop a line and say hello!

A Woman with an Opinion said...

Hi Melissa, it's lovely to see you on here. I was quite sad when I saw you had deleted your LJ. And I'm looking forward to reading about what you get up to in Georgia.