Creating Space for Art: Honesty

Part three of a three part series (Part IPart II).

When it comes to great art (and I'd say meaningful life), thoughtful honesty is vital. The artist's task is to observe and retell, which doesn't work when your way of life involves carefully filtering out any item that might make you look bad, undermine your ideology, run against cultural grains, or potentially be misunderstood. Without a healthy sense of honesty, most of your creative time will be spent thinking about the potential repercussions of saying something rather than how to say something better. And so, hot button issues are sidelined for things more palatable. Without honesty, art becomes disingenuous veneer.

Dishonesty, which I'd say is different from thoughtful restraint, does no good. It is a form of perpetual lying that flows from fear, putting on a ruse about the way we think and feel, which I imagine contributes to the spike in suicide rates among Christian teens who find themselves attracted to members of the same sex, no matter how hard they pray or try to choose to be heterosexual. To intentionally hide what you think and feel is to train yourself to live as a doppleganger, living out actions that ignore internal motivation and soul, or as Jesus put it, whitewashed tombs filled with dead men's bones.

Honesty also gives us space to fail, to get it half right, because if we're honest that's about the best that any of us are doing anyway. When we get comfortable with expressing our fears and failures through our creative process they begin to lose their power and we gain more freedom to create honestly. Things just aren't as scary in the light.

For sure, honesty has its dark side–telling a stranger that you think they are fat for example. In that case, thoughtful restraint might be a better choice. It's tricky. I fail. But I continue to fight for thoughtful honesty honed with proper, situation dependent, restraint because I'd rather not go back to secretive pandering.

And the results? I'd say the songs I've been singing, the words I've been writing, and the conversations I've been having finally have some heart to them.