Ethics for Artists

The devastation caused by hurricanes is well known and has unfortunately really hit home in the USA as well as in locations such as Bangladesh.  Even years later, there are large numbers of people still recovering from those events and so, as a writer there are a few questions.

Journalists have written about it extensively, and there is little doubt that this is socially acceptable amongst these professional nonfiction writers.  What about fiction writers?  Is it bad form to write fiction stories based upon these events?  If not, it seems to me that hurricane recovery could make a good theme for at least a few short stories and a couple of novels.

Part of what this has brought up of course, is what – if it were a college course, we would call Ethics for Artists.  Art is certainly not as strict as the clergy but that doesn’t really mean ‘anything goes’.  There are artists who push boundaries and those who are out there to be a force for the good or for change.  Some don’t even think that way but may be out there trying to figure out how to make a living and keep the precious ‘artistic integrity’.  At many conventions there is usually at least one sad story about someone who felt that he or she could have made it big but refused to give into to a powerful editor and got pretty much laughed off the playing field for doing so….at least for a while.

There are artists who love truth and who believe that the realms of mind and imagination are more important than facts, until their power goes out and then they bitch until the regular boring people show up and fix it.  OK, that is not always true and not entirely fair but I think it is true enough to mean something to most of you.

Still, main concepts of artistic ethics, as I currently understand it are about: 1) the role of truth in an artwork.  Some art is to create a forum for truth telling as with so many children’s stories that were the only way for adults to work around the governments censorship programs back circa 1600 in glorious Europe.  Some artists use their art today – to reveal or share truth that most people won’t.  That being said, we also know that the joy of fiction is that it doesn’t need to adhere to the truth at all, which makes a big difference.  How a work of art does and does not express truth is a fun puzzle and a career for many.  2) Personal integrity as an artist.  For some people this is = Christian doctrine of the eternal soul and whether or not you, as an artist, get to keep yours and share it through your art with the world or if you will be pulverized until and even when you trade it in for some pay and do what the editor or marketing manager told you to do.  3) Pay – pay for artists is a lot like the issues with money and sex.  You know lots of serious romantic partners share money and tons of females especially receive money from their lover but the minute someone gets paid for it, people get offended.  I have met poets who reacted to the idea of pay at least as badly as that.  Other artists feel that like spouses may receive lots of financial support for their work but when they love each other it isn’t just having been corrupted into getting paid for it…that being a paid happy successful artist is more like a healthy marriage.

Worth thinking about.

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