Has Writer's Week become a stage for emotional Venting?

As a freshman at Fremd, Writer's Week came to be one of the greatest weeks during my first year at high school. Every subsequent year since, I have looked forward eagerly to Writer's Week. I loved being able to go see a multitude of talented performers sharing their writing and music with our school, who is fortunate enough to have the resources and teachers to put on such an amazing event. However, I have noticed increasingly since my Freshman year, that every year there seems to be an increase of students who seemingly get up on stage with no apparent writing of any merit. They simply talk about problems in their life or vent about something that has been really bothering them. I understand that many students are going through painful experiences and personal struggles and feel the need to share these feelings with someone else.

But is the Writer's Week stage really the place to do so? I personally, do not enjoy listening to depressing stories about deaths, bullying, divorce, or any other unfortunate and sad event that has happened in someone's life unless it is actually a piece of writing with some merit and thought. Simply getting up on stage and narrating how sad of a life you have had does not seem appropriate to me. There are counselors at our school who you can talk about stuff like that with. Perhaps a support group or a close friend would be a better outlet. I do not feel it is fair that I have to be subjected to the emotional venting of many students that leave me with a sad feeling after their performance when I should be listening to students who have written poetry, songs, or clever writing. Sometimes after a period of Writer's Week, I leave more upset than after watching an abused puppies commerical. Readers should be more considerate in my opinion of the audience and should read something that others can learn from or relate to. I just want Writer's Week to stay about good writing and not turn into a cry fest every year.  Emotional writing is fine if there is a point. I don't want to sound insensitive because I understand that many students have a lot more problems that they are dealing with than I have ever had. I am merely suggesting that Writer's Week is not the place to share all these feelings. I would prefer to hear more writing at Writer's Week instead of story telling.

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Comment by Mike O'Connor on March 19, 2012 at 9:12pm

I agree with you on most levels. For example, I definitely think that seeing a support group or school counselor can be a more effective coping mechanism than telling the whole school about your problems. Also, I agree that Writers Week performers should make an effort to organize their thoughts in some way, be it writing or another method. However, if a student feels the need to let things out at Writers Week through performance, I think he or she should be able to vent to some extent. It can be healthy (though it isn't always). But to venters, I suggest you let the audience help you out or give the audience some hope so that it isn't all gloom and doom.

Comment by Soumya Vhasure on March 19, 2012 at 9:45pm

I see your  point to an extent, but you have to understand where they're coming from. A lot of great writing comes from pain and hardship. Things like suffering inspire people to write. Listen to the majority of songs these days. The ones that aren't about hooking up with hot girls or getting wasted are about heartbreak and loss. Also, they might not necessarily be presenting about these things for themselves; they might be doing it to inspire everybody else in the audience that might be going through the same thing. To tell that it will be better someday. Personally, I like listening to some of the presenters' life stories. But put too many in one period and it's like overkill.

Comment by Alaina McCaffrey on March 19, 2012 at 10:00pm

I definitely see your point. Sometimes it's hard to hear such dark stories, but I think they can have benefits to the entire student body, rather than just being "depressing". For example, stories of other people's hardships can make me want to appreciate the good things in my own life, or can inspire me to reach out for help if I'm having similar troubles. I think students also read darker, more personal pieces because it can give them a sense of peace with the topic, and can also develop a sense of support with their peers at school.

Comment by Garrett Peters on March 19, 2012 at 10:43pm

I LOVE THIS BLOG POST!!!!!!!!!  I agree with you Mr. Savitt, 100%.  In the preceding years of writers week, these sad/depressing stories have been on the steady increase.  By my estimates if this keeps up, in the Year 2014 Writers Week will be renamed Gloomy Week.  This year during this "week of writing", there was definitely a sadness in the halls of Fremd and with my investigative skills, I believe it had to do with the stories being told.  There's a time and place for these stories and it's not one right after the other for writers week.  I remember sitting in the Auditorium and hearing kids talk about all the sad stories they were hearing.  It would be different if there was one or two every day, but instead during student presentations there are two or three a period.

Comment by Isaiah Sanderman on March 19, 2012 at 10:50pm

I think the post is saying that the focus of Writer's Week has shifted from good writing to personal venting. I agree with this statement. I also disapprove of that shift. Personal narratives express the least writing talent because they are the non-fiction retelling of an event that directly happened to yourself, so you tend to know it very well. You don't have to do research or put much effort into it. However, that's not to say they can't still be good. Johnathon Stoller-Schoff's was excellent, but he didn't forget the audience in his narrative. He made it extremely funny and entertaining. The problem is that many people forgot the audience and made it all about their pain. Pain doesn't make you special, we all have it.

Comment by Erik Savitt on March 20, 2012 at 12:43am
Jonathans piece was excellent. It was a personal story that was hilarious and not depressing and actually a good piece of writing. I don't mind a sad story if it was written well and has a point but many of the presentors were simply retelling an event and it didn't even feel like writing. Just being on stage for the sake of being up there
Comment by Kevin Cassato on March 20, 2012 at 1:06am

I'd say that I agree, but we walk a fine line when we criticize someone for opening themselves up and trying to be vulnerable. As you said, Writer's Week isn't perhaps the best venue for this sort of emotional venting, but there needs to be a time and a place for this sort of experience. I'm also glad that you mentioned Jonathan's piece because that type of writing takes a lot of work. Anyone can write a sad story about how bad their life sucks, but not everyone can make their personality and charisma come through reading words printed upon a piece of computer paper. All in all, Writer's Week should make sure it focuses more on the bright side of life, but we can't ignore the dark side.

Comment by Ji Young Seo on March 20, 2012 at 1:40am

It does seem like every year, the portion of students that write a sad story or vent their feelings grows. It is hard as an audience member to hear tragedy after tragedy, but we must also keep in mind that Writer's Week isn't for the audience. That's why it's called "Writer's" Week; it's a time where writers with any type of experience and piece of writing can share their writing. I do agree that sometimes the writing pieces are of lesser merit than others, but teachers are not going to discourage them from writing since they are not as good as others. I'm not saying that this is okay, but sometimes it's good to get a variety of writing levels to encourage more people. When people listen to a piece that they think is mediocre, they think, "I can write better than them" and actually write. But reading just for the sake of being on stage or to target a specific person in the audience negatively, in my opinion, is abusing the opportunity. I agree with a lot of what you said, especially about the part where people shouldn't abuse the opportunity to read and just vent, but I also think we need to keep in mind that it takes a lot of courage to get up on a stage and read what you wrote. 

Comment by Jesse Ott on March 20, 2012 at 9:58am

I think that this blog is pretty well done, but I am going to disagree for one simple reason, I AM one of those writers.  My story was depressing, but it was also personal.  It had emotion and heart in it.  I decided to write my story not for me, but for other people.  I had to deal with something very painful for me, but I did it to help other kids.  Everyone has problems, and I praise students who are able to write and talk about their problems because no one else will.  I recieved letters from people that I never thought would because my story helped them realize something.  If my story is able to help one person, then I think that it is worth it and people who disagree should suck it up and be thankful that they don't have the problems that others have to deal with.  But, I do think that there should be more consideration when students are put into periods.  When one period is all depressing stories, it really brings the mood of everyone down.  There should be a mix of sad, happy, and funny stories in a period so everyone should be entertained.  If they do that, then I think we all can go home happy.

Comment by Mike Fowle on March 20, 2012 at 3:24pm

I believe that some students with depressing stories have good writing techniques and interesting things to say, while students with happy things to say can be an ear sore. There is a large gray area in the statement that the depressing students are bad, but the more upbeat-type writers tend to have more good entries. In giving students the opportunity to read something they wrote, we are giving them the opportunity to read something that people may or may not care about.

It all comes down to the balance, if I heard 3 students the whole week who had a lasting impression on me with depressing stories, I would have a different perspective

But good writing isn't about shock value or emotional impact, it's about good writing, which can have shock value and emotional impact.

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