I’ve been seeing the word “authenticity” everywhere lately. In webinars geared to writers, in blog posts geared to entrepreneurs, in ads for almost anything. (“Try our authentic Mexican food!”) We seem to be craving authenticity.
This isn’t surprising, really, after several years in which rumors, falsehoods, and crazy conspiracy theories dominated the airwaves, and we were all isolated from genuine social interactions.
Like almost everyone I know, except for the fact that it keeps me connected to people, I have strong negative feelings about social media. In particular, I hate thinking that I have to use social media platforms as a way to promote my work. And that every five minutes there’s a new platform that I need to join or must learn how to manipulate. Hey, let’s meet on Clubhouse! Have you made a TikTok video yet? Where’s your Instagram story? And the worst: You don’t have 10,000 followers on x. Sorry, but we’re not interested in you. The problem is, we now have a way to share, share, share, but what, exactly are we sharing?
I’ve been thinking about authenticity as it pertains to my work and life, and the writing of those I coach. What is my authentic view of the world and how does it inform the things I do every day – writing, and coaching writers? And how do we accept ourselves as we truly are, and others as they truly are, and can we be authentic without even that becoming a trite cliché?
What Is Success?
I’m a big fan of Dan Blank. He works with artists on promotion and writes often about how to market art with authenticity. In a recent blog post he discussed “that space that I think so many writers and creators get lost: that line between what we create and our identity.” Sometimes we writers feel that we have to write to the market to be successful. That romance is where to break in. That science fiction is too niche. That every YA novel must be dystopian, or feature a teen with hidden powers. Worst of all, that the writing world is some kind of competition, and that to break in means breaking someone else’s dream.
I don’t believe that success depends on following trends. True success comes from following your heart.
I’ve said this before. The best stories dig deep. Our strongest main characters are those who feel the full range of emotions, including those of failure and loss. The most compelling plots are not necessarily full of action but are most definitely full of emotional truth. The only formula for writing a successful book is writing a fully emotionally realized book, because true success in the marketplace can never be guaranteed, but true success for us as writers is when we feel the satisfaction of writing from the heart.
My Coaching Advice
Here’s my free advice to you writers, and to those of you who teach young writers: write what you feel compelled to write. Write what is in your heart. Speak your truth. Write in the genre you love, with characters who feel what you feel most strongly. Don’t worry about the latest fads, about what others are doing, about what might resonate on social media. This doesn’t mean spilling sordid details or revealing private tabloid-style trivia. It does mean giving your readers authentic characters who come alive through your honest representation of fundamental humanity. Oh, and kindness, in your characters and in your approach to your readers, is (as everywhere in life) always advised.
Be authentically you, and your readers will follow.