My mother and I are currently working through a book on Dutch literature. In it, there are pieces from books that are considered to be high-standing works. Regularly the books I get are not the type of writing you’d expect them to be: they are riddled with bad morals, foul language, sexual misconduct, and ideas that are very far from the Word of God.
We always say writing is good: it helps you order your thoughts and provide useful insights to other people. What people often don’t realise is that this ordering of thoughts might be very useful for the writer, but not for the reader. One very good example is fanfiction. Now, I’m not gonna hate on fanfiction in general, because I read my fair share of it. Fanfiction is what it says on the tin: fiction written by the fans of a piece of work. For example, if I really liked a book or a movie or something like that, I could write my own stories for the characters. That is fanfiction, and it’s usually fine. But sometimes you find something that is… worrying. And I’m not talking about the smut or the bad language. That’s pretty clearly wrong. I’m talking about pieces that seem to be the author’s way of dealing with their own problems.
For example, I was recently reading some Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction. I had sadly already encountered a piece that suddenly devolved into porn – I’m still not over it – but what I read next was slightly… worse. I’m going to spare you the details, but what I read was extremely graphic in the violence aspect. Later on in the series, somebody had a miscarriage, somebody else managed to get himself a lot of nasty scars in a lot of nasty ways, and there was human trafficking. In fanfiction for a family radio show! A Christian family radio show. The more I read (please don’t ask me why I kept reading, because I don’t know), the more the idea presented itself to me that this wasn’t about Adventures in Odyssey. It wasn’t about the characters, or the story, or anything like that. It was about the author’s own problems. The author was – and I found this to be true later on when I contacted them – basically begging for attention though their stories, trying to understand their own emotions, which they seemed to have quite a lot of.
Now, generally, this is fine. If you want to work out what on earth your emotions are on about by writing about people getting miscarriages, go for it. Just… don’t publish it, maybe? Because the thing is: what you read affects you. I always love making up stories in my head when I lie in bed at night, a bit like my own private fanfiction. For weeks after reading those admittedly very well-written stories, my mind couldn’t manage to make up a story without adding some weird torture or kidnap scene somewhere in the middle of it. After accidentally stumbling upon another weird Adventures in Odyssey fanfic, this one… well, suffice it to say it wouldn’t have been on day-time TV – you guessed it: weird, random sexual references and innuendos popped up in my mind, even if somebody said something normal.
Okay, so watch out when you read fanfiction (and check those tags, if you know what’s good for you). But what worries me is that this kind of writing isn’t just seen on the internet, where any rando can post what they want. Publishing companies put out some very interesting reads as well. Remember when I mentioned those books my Dutch curriculum seems to think are wonderful? They really aren’t. They’re filled with abortions, trashy morals, sex and profanities. Others aren’t as bad on the sexual side, but the moral problem remains. It seems as if the authors woke up one day and had one of those random nasty thoughts or questions about a very difficult issue that won’t leave you alone. They then proceeded to turn these questions into a book, without offering any answers. This is okay for adults. But for teenagers, these books can leave huge, gaping holes in our worldview. These authors sometimes bring up very good questions that I, at only 16 years of age, can’t possibly even start to answer. The author themselves doesn’t even do it! Again: they wrote the book to broadcast their own questions and thoughts, their own hurt and grief, their own emotions. Very useful to them, not so much for the young readers.
And this brings me to my main point: if you want to write something, write it. Writing really does help! But if your stories are riddled with only sad and horrible things, you should start to wonder. And for goodness’ sake, watch what you read. What the world seems to think is good quality literature is sometimes garbage of the most disgusting kind. And just because the book is old doesn’t mean it’s good either. As for me, everybody out there would make me very happy if they would keep their therapeutic writings to themselves.