Authenticity and the Creative

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

-Mark Twain

With the re-launch of my branding, I’ve been thinking about authenticity a lot lately and what that even means in the digital age. But my musings about authenticity, and my concern with offering a true representation of myself, really stems from being a writer.

It’s long been discussed across the ages that the ultimate plight of the writer is expressing their authentic meaning—creating character interiorities that are authentically representational, creating worlds that mirror the images in our heads, and creating meaning through symbology that is an authentic expression of our intent. If you’re feeling hopeful, don’t. The answer is that it’s impossible. You will never be able to express exactly what you intend, in the same way that you will never be able to exactly experience someone else's perspective. The concept is the same.

But we can get as close as possible. We can work to bring our writing to its purest form possible, meaning it will always be flawed. And, in some ways, that creates important meaning, too. We get close through editing, through collaborative creative work, through revision upon revision, through refining our initial visions, and through being open to the process of fully creating a piece of art. And this process truly provides enough joy and satisfaction to assuage what’s missing in our intended meaning. Besides, what you write will read differently for everyone. Your intended meaning should be specific but portrayed with broad enough symbology that every reader can identify with it differently and intimately. It’s like peeling an onion—all the layers should reveal different, more pungent meaning.

I feel this way about authenticity outside of my writing as well. Social media and online avatars have created a desire for us to represent ourselves beyond our daily interactions and regular communication. Branding ourselves is second nature, and I think it’s elevated how connected we are with ourselves in some ways. It’s forced us to examine who we are as characters in our own lives and how we want to be portrayed. But it also feels daunting, like you can do it wrong. I felt that way.

“I gradually became aware that my interiority was in separable from my exteriority, that the geography of my city was the geography of my soul.”

-Aleksander Hemon

But then I realized that I was creating a type of guardianship over my identity—trying to carefully tuck it away and only let out what “made sense,” which is sort of the most inauthentic version of myself. Because the reality is, especially for creative people, that being yourself out loud can be scary, intimidating, and draining. Now, I’m letting the cat out of the bag, so to speak, and after all these years of feeling like I was helping myself by keeping small, I realize that I was stressing myself TF out! Because letting my authenticity shine has been SO INCREDIBLY LIBERATING. And I imagine it will make me a better writer, too!

Stay magical, friends,

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