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On authenticity in writing.
Knowing yourself can help you connect with others.
The year seems to be driving at an ever-quicking pace toward its end. It’s hard to believe that October (arguably the best month of the year) is almost over. I am currently in the process of revising and rewriting the first draft of my novel. It is a somewhat daunting task, as now I want to ensure the changes I’m making are getting the story to the best version it can be. When I make a change, I want it to stick. The last thing I want to do is rewrite something only to change it again.
The whole editing process has made me consider the authenticity of my writing. Whether enough of myself is coming through on the page or, conversely, if I need to put myself into my writing at all. Does writing need a piece of the author represented in the work to be compelling? It is inevitable that some part of the author will come through, but what is the perfect balance? I feel I should preface this article by saying that the “writing” I am referencing is fiction writing. I realize there are other opinions of thought and intention to consider when it comes to non-fiction, journalism, academics, and other forms of writing.
It is an easy idea to understand and see in others’ work.
When creating art, one of the main driving factors is self-expression. The ability to understand yourself more fully through the creation of art.
Not only does it allow us to have a better understanding of ourselves, but it also helps others as well. That when they consume your work, you have a shared experience. It allows us to connect to one another and feel what each other feels. We know that we are a part of the human experience and are not alone. It shows us that someone can express things about our existence that we did not know how to.
It is an easy idea to understand and see in others’ work. But how do we go about achieving it in our own work? My goal is to be authentic in my writing. But how do I accomplish that? What does the process look like? How does it reflect my unique experience in a way that can be relatable to others? What do I get out of the process if I genuinely express myself authentically?
It also depends on how you view authenticity. If you consider it as true to your character and personality, that sounds easy enough; write what you feel. If you view it as true to your experience, write about what you have lived. But it gets a little more complicated if you view it as being true to a shared human experience for which you can bring a voice. All of these forms of self-expression are skewed through the lens of intention. What is our end goal when creating art? Whatever it is, writing without your motivation coming through is impossible. There truly is no unbiased writing.
Even if you have a solid grasp of what authenticity means for your writing, putting it into practice can be another battle. Writers can take years of practice and exploration to get to the point where they are able to express themselves authentically. But just by asking these questions, I feel I am approaching it from the correct perspective.
By knowing yourself more fully, you can better understand how your individual experience can bring value to others. It can also help you better understand the biases you bring to your own writing. Knowing how and why you are bringing bias to your writing can be powerful. It allows you to use and direct it rather than being an unintended consequence.
The simple act of sitting down at the keyboard, daily if you can, has the ability to allow you to flow onto the page. Habits are powerful, and it is easy to fall out of the practice of daily writing. One day off can lead to many—consistency breeds progress. And for me progress in writing is a deeper connection to my own mind, to understand myself more fully, and to be able to express that to others.
Thanks for reading!
On the topic of including your personal experience in your writing, here is an excellent post on the annotated lyrics from a great song by Colin Meloy.