The Truth About Honesty

With a background in philosophy and writing, something like this was bound to come up. I’ve been thinking about content producers lately and what makes each of them effective and unique… and of course, what makes some of them get lost in the fray.

Before I started this blog I wrote mostly fiction. I never had much of a knack or a desire for writing any sort of creative nonfiction. It just wasn’t my thing. However, since writing here I’ve found a love for writing narratives about reality. I’ve found that I merely have to adjust my style and my view in order to express the same truth.

Yes: the same truth.

You see, I find that there’s a difference between truth and fact. Truth is something that is based in reality and emotive. It isn’t rigid and unwavering like facts are. Truth, especially in art, is found in the integrity of the story being told. Whether it be through photography or drawings or a play or memoirs or fiction, the story can be true as long as long as the artist is honest and believes in his work.

Honesty. I find artistic honesty to be somewhat different from a more “real world” definition. It’s not about relaying facts. Sure, that is honest, but not always effective for art. If a photographer were to shoot a subject without any environmental alterations, do you think models would look as good as they do? If I told you a story by simply setting facts out for you, would you reach the same emotional conclusion as if I created a narrative? Of course not.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the photographer or the writer is a liar or being dishonest. It means that they are telling a story. The photographer is representing her subject’s best version for the story. The writer is taking you on a linguistic adventure to arrive at an emotional response. The purpose of art is to tell a story and to evoke feelings from an audience and often times this is best accomplished with alterations to the factual reality.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially with a recent conversation about artistic honesty with a fellow artist. So I’m curious: what, to you, is the most honest piece of work you’ve come across… recently or ever? For me it is Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler. I won’t tell you why, because I sincerely believe that you should read it and find out for yourself. You won’t regret it.

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3 Responses to The Truth About Honesty

  1. As soon as I read your question, If on a winter’s night a traveler came to mind. The other that jumps at me is Billy Collins’ “Bar Time.” I’m sure there are others, so I’ll think more and we can discuss over whiskey. Great question, by the way.

  2. Honesty is somewhat of a hot topic lately in the blogosphere. I’ve heard purely documenting bloggers look in awe of honest bloggers. My advice is just to write your truth. But some writers are afraid of putting too much of their personal life out there. I think your solution is a good compromise. Be artistic. Avoid the details if need be but focus on the feeling.

    • earthtoadam says:

      That’s how I approach it: writing my truth.
      I will tell anybody who asks that everything I write is true so long as I write it from a pure place.
      I like what you say in “focus on the feeling,” because that’s what makes art true. If the artist has honest intentions, then the art will be meaningful.

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