I’ve spent plenty of thought on my personal development over the past four years, over which I changed a great deal. I understand a lot of people who go to college experience a similar pattern, in which their prior worldviews meet others and shift. These things were definitely true with me, but throughout much of the process I was, unlike many college students, writing novels. I wrote three novels in the course of college, each of them quite different from the prior one. I would like to be able to say that each one was better than the one before, but honestly, I don’t know if I can. The second of college (my 4th total) might still be best by my own estimation.
But since I finished writing the last book in junior year I haven’t been nearly as productive. This one took me over nine months to actually write, and I am a little disheartened because it seemed like I was grasping for something out of reach the whole time. I think grasping for the distant goal is a good thing in regards to creativity. If I may paraphrase the great comic book writer Alan Moore “one should never attempt a creative project without the sense one might not be able to complete it”. Even so, this last book took a lot out of me. It was a monster, but one altogether different from the beastly horrors of the previous books. While I don’t want to go into specifics too deeply here it has to do with the way I changed throughout my college career.
I was a somewhat violent child. I liked to fight and read violent stories when I was young, and I gradually had that worked out of me through high school and college. The process consisted of many experiences and lessons I collected from all over, just as I suspect these things happen for many people. By the time I wrote the last book of college my perceptions of what was acceptable in fiction must have shifted as well, because the book had some of the least violence of any book I ever wrote. In a way this is a huge improvement. I no longer need pointless gore in my stories to sate some sort of primal sense of vicarious bloodlust. The issue I find is that I always write stories for myself, and ever since my great changes my very sense of what I want is different, but has gone unexamined for much of this time.
I didn’t go so far to have these actual thoughts because I didn’t notice enough, but my guess is it went something like this in my subconscious mind:
Superego: “I don’t crave carnage for its own sake.”
Ego: “That is good. It should help us keep out of trouble.”
Id: “I need to write something.”
Superego: “It would be wrong to continue gratifying violence in writing.”
Ego: “But it can be exciting, and we know how to write it.”
Id: “Let me write something!”
Ego: “We’ll just try to keep writing what we’ve been writing.”
Id: “Sounds good!”
So from there I started trying to write the same old stories, though I kept questioning what was right for a while. In one case I actually asked others what they thought of my problem.
“Violence is wrong. Depicting violence likely sensationalizes it for the audience. Is it right to write a story that is so violent and gory?”
Eventually I seem to have made up my mind to show the negative consequences of violence more. This, I think helps mitigate the ethical problem of depicting violence as a peaceable person, because it removes the glamour from the battles. The second and third books of college were both written with this sort of solution in mind. The violence in these books was also more limited, as the main characters were not forced into violence as often as in prior books.
In some ways this made these books lighter. In other ways it meant the violence that was depicted was more disturbing. In the last book I wrote emotions were especially tied to the violence in a way that I’d scarcely done before–That is murder, rather than action-violence–and the aftereffects of that.
Anyway, I think I may be approaching a crossroads once again. I’ve got to decide what I really want to do with my stories now that I have so much experience actually writing them.