For such a long time I’ve talked about authenticity. Now the word is becoming more and more like jargon.
And every time I hear it, or discuss it on Twitter with others, I’m feeling an accusing finger pointing my way. That nagging sense many don’t think I’m authentic.
And in my own mind, my greatest fear is fast becoming I’m simply not being authentic enough. Not living or writing with enough integrity or honesty. Still holding back from the real truth.
I’ve seen three blog posts, by Sarah Bessey, Brian Gardner and Katharine Welby-Roberts, and a quote by Rob Bell (in the picture above) which have all, one way or another, been drawing my attention to this.
I see so many writers worrying about brand, image, marketing, stats, money – and it’s not even that these things are bad in themselves. But somehow they’ve become the point. They’ve become the reason people write. I see tweets saying “Need 10,000 subscribers/followers? Read This!” or “How To Get 100,ooo People To Read Your Blog”, and I sigh in despair.
In his post Brian quoted Ernest Hemingway, a quote which rammed this message home:
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway
We don’t need followers. We don’t need subscribers. We don’t need fame, status or money.
We need to bleed.
I don’t want to write material which is a lie. I don’t want to be a person or writer who fakes integrity or uses authenticity as his ‘platform’. Because when you do that, you immediately lose all integrity.
Katharine Welby-Roberts says we often confuse authenticity with vulnerability – and I agree. But authenticity does require a degree of vulnerability. To have integrity means there is a degree to which you’re vulnerable.
However, I’m not going to bare every single fact about myself in my work. As I’ve said before, being authentic doesn’t mean exposing ourselves, and sharing every intimate detail.
No, being authentic is being honest. Being real. Telling the truth, being vulnerable as far as it’s appropriate or safe to be, and acting with integrity – not just when people can see, but when no one is looking.
As a writer, it means reaching inside yourself and pouring out words until you bleed. Sometimes, it’s pulling out your heart and bearing it on the page. It can mean deleting and rewriting until the truth comes out.
This is a battle. It’s not a destination we reach, because as soon as you think you’ve reached it, you’re liable to screw up again. It’s a constant wrestling with ourselves to be the most honest we can, and to always live, speak and work with integrity.
It’s a battle for your soul.
I feel this even now, writing this post. The finger pointing at me, waiting to show me how I’m slipping into fake mode (I’d say another word, but I’m trying to be polite). I don’t want to be fake, to be a liar, to act without integrity, towards anyone – and this includes towards you, the people who read my work.
I don’t have all the answers. I never will. All I have is my story, my experiences, my knowledge, and insight. And of course, my words to share them.
My hope is always these will somehow be encouraging, challenging and inspiring to others – that’s why I have a public blog. But ultimately, I just want to be honest, true, and yes, that word again, authentic.
I owe it to all the people I encounter – whether that’s face to face, on social media or through my writing.
We all do.
In a world full of image, branding, and lies, we need to be better. We need to be people of integrity, honesty and truth. We need to live in such a way that others can see it in us, smell it on us, and which reflects back onto others.
It needs to flow through us like blood, and out of us like sweat.
The world needs integrity and authenticity more than ever.
I’m desperate for more of this in myself. I know I’ll always be wrestling with this issue. I won’t always get it right.
But I hope you’ll join me in the wrestling.
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(Images: James Prescott / Online Source)
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