Express Yourself: Six Strategies for Authentic Creating
Last week, Merriam-Webster announced its Word of the Year for 2023. The word they chose is Authentic.
In an interview with the Associated Press, the dictionary’s editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski reflected on why. “We see in 2023 a kind of crisis of authenticity. What we realize is that when we question authenticity, we value it even more.”
From fake news to artificial reality, what is real is constantly being manipulated and redefined. So 2023 has been a year of searching for the truth.
According to Merriam-Webster, meanings run from “not false or imitation” to “true to one's own personality, spirit, or character.”
How do we discern what to trust, where to put our faith, even how to define reality?
If we explore its origins, the word "authentic" does not disappoint. It can be traced back to the Greek authéntikos, from authéntes for doer, master, perpetrator of deeds. And if you keep going back, you’ll find that it comes from the Greek ánymi, an´ynai… animate, I suppose: to complete, achieve, perpetrate.
The Authentic Doer
Authenticity lives in the doing.
In Stephen Mitchell's translation of the ancient Chinese text, Tao te Ching, there's a profound line I’ve always cherished: “The Master… trusts people who are trustworthy. She also trusts people who aren’t trustworthy. This is true trust.”
To me, this means to trust everyone to reveal their true selves. Authenticity does not necessarily mean you are good. You may also be authentically evil.
To be authentic means that what you do, what you put out into the world, lines up with the essence of who you are.
For creators, this resonates deeply.
Creative authenticity might be defined as showing up for yourself – the Dreamer, the Visionary, the Doer, the Changemaker – throughout the process. True authenticity evolves with time, for we are not who we were last year… and not who we will be when we die. Each stage of the creative process challenges you to go deeper within, find what’s true for you in the moment, and express that.
Your Authentic Nature
Several decades ago, I had a brief affair with a young Greek man named Theo. He took me around his small island on his scooter, refilling oil lamps in the tiny family temples that dot the landscape. Outside one of these gems atop the island’s highest peak, I surveyed the rocky outcroppings above the sprawling valley. I observed a pair of goats, curious as two why they would leave the comfort of the grass below to climb. Realizing they do it because it’s in their nature to climb. In that moment, I understood myself, the ambitious Capricorn girl always aiming higher.
We do what is in our nature to do. And this is also how we create. Unless something disconnects us from our authentic natures.
So how do we ensure authenticity in our creativity? How do we stay true to the visions evolving with us?
Your Authentic Voice
Here are six strategies you can use to hear your own authentic voice and express it in your creative work consistently over time:
- Self-Reflection Rituals: Establish regular self-reflection practices to delve into your inner world. Journaling, meditation, or dedicated quiet moments can help you understand your values, motivations, and unique perspectives. By exploring your thoughts and feelings, you'll uncover the authentic voice that wants to be expressed.
- Explore Diverse Inspirations: Immerse yourself in a variety of artistic forms, cultures, and experiences. Expand your horizons beyond your comfort zone. Exposure to diverse influences helps you identify what resonates most deeply with your authentic self. Draw inspiration from unexpected sources to infuse your work with a richer, more authentic tapestry.
- Seek Feedback from Trusted Peers: Share your work with a trusted circle of peers who understand your creative vision. Constructive feedback can provide valuable insights into whether your authentic voice is shining through. Trusted collaborators can offer perspectives that help you refine and enhance your expression without compromising your authenticity.
- Embrace Vulnerability in Creation: Authenticity often involves being vulnerable and embracing imperfections. Allow yourself to take creative risks and be open to experimentation. Recognize that your authentic voice may evolve over time, and each project is a step in the ongoing journey of self-expression. Embracing vulnerability can lead to breakthroughs and genuine connections with your audience.
- Align Your Work with Your Core Values: Identify your core values and ensure that they align with your creative endeavors. When your work reflects your values, it becomes a powerful expression of your authentic self. Whether it's social justice, environmental sustainability, or personal growth, infuse your creations with the principles that resonate deeply with you.
- Practice Authenticity Check-Ins: Regularly evaluate your work against the question: "Does this feel true to me?" As you progress in your creative journey, it's essential to pause and assess whether your current projects align with your evolving authentic voice. This check-in ensures that you stay connected to your genuine self amid the dynamic nature of creativity.
But authenticity is also deeper than what you do. It is a dynamic and evolving aspect of your creative identity. By incorporating these strategies into your creative process, you'll not only discover your authentic voice but also nurture its expression in your work.
The Evolving Authentic
Perhaps there are also levels of authenticity. Perhaps a lifetime is meant for going deeper and deeper beneath all the things we think we are – to discover something we didn’t yet know about ourselves. We do this with the questions we ask ourselves.
- What does it mean to be me?
- What do I love?
- What excites me?
- What is required?
- What is original?
- Where can I find my people?
- Where can I be inspired?
- Where can I contribute?
- Where can I just be myself?
But these are questions to answer, not with your head, but with your life.
The longer I live, the more I recognize my tendency to live life in my head: to analyze, deconstruct, dissect, understand, explain. If I can only make sense of the situation, then I will know how to control it. But this is an illusion.
And as I grow older, I’m learning that retreating to my head cuts me off from my very life. Just to live, to experience, to feel, and to respond spontaneously in the moment. This is my authenticity.
And what about you, dear reader? How do you answer these questions with your life.
Is not life itself the journey of self-discovery?
An Authentic Space
If you're craving space for your true essence to emerge, join me on Sunday, December 17, in The Virtual Yurt. In this month’s reflection session, you’ll have a quiet, creatively nourishing space to answer these questions for yourself. This will be a quiet creative space to help you start 2024 with these answers clear in your mind and heart.