From the Greek: principal, genuine.
Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen. (p.49) — Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Real, actual, genuine: original, first hand; really proceeding from its stated source. — The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary
Authenticity, for me, is doing what you promise, not “being who you are.” — http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/02/authenticity.html
All of these definitions can deepen writing practice, flowing one to another to help the writer mine the deepest story with the most true intention.
Brene Brown’s definition — the concept of being who you are — speaks to the idea of bringing your true self to the page every time. Each morning, in the dark, as I come to the page, I try to be brave enough to cast off whatever ideas others might have of who I should be and just be as I am. As I move my pen across the page, I drop into the truth of the text, revealing it fearlessly. Okay, maybe not without fear, but at least I know I’m in the dark (literally and figuratively) and trust that if I can ignore the fear for a little while, I will get to the hard, beautiful honesty at the core as I draft.
Seth Godin’s definition applies to writing, I think, in the revision stages. Once you’ve been brave enough to let the raw draft emerge, then it’s time to allow the story to do what it promises. If you’ve been fully authentic in the draft, it becomes easier to follow that promise in the revision. Still hard, still cutting things you’d like to keep (think Luc Sante and Kill All Your Darlings), but holding to the core.
During my time in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte, I learned to look at a story (or novel) after it had been revised, write down everything it was about and then go through the text, moment by moment, and discard everything that wasn’t connected to what the story is about. For our writing practice and our lives, good advice.
What are you about? What is your story about? Hold to these and you can discover more authentic stories, ones that are likely to resonate with readers.
And, if it helps, keep this, from C.G. Jung, in mind: The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.
And, to make your stories become what they truly are.
P.S. This post is the first in my A to Z blog challenge posts. Happy to be part of it. Thanks to Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out for getting it all going.