What Time Taught Me About Authenticity

imgresSo today I’m exploring more about authenticity. I imagine some of you are already asking ‘Another post about authenticity? Really?’.

Stick with me. There’s a reason I’m using this word.

Which brings me to time.

Time is a powerful thing. We can’t resist it’s power, no matter how much we try. It claims all of us eventually. But time is invariably wise too. It has much to teach us.

In my case, the years have taught me much about the meaning and importance of authenticity.

Truth. In life and work.

A few years ago, I had just launched my first free book on my blog. At the time I had what now look completely unrealistic expectations. I thought this free book would launch me on a road to hundreds of thousands of blog subscribers and a publishing deal, in a very short space of time. (Yes, really). 

Now, with the benefit of time, I see I wasn’t interested in writing.  It fame, status, and security which I craved. I wanted to be important, and I wanted everyone to like me.

Success was selling hundreds of thousands of books, being famous and in demand all over the world.

Sound lame? It was. I was.

In the last few years though, I’ve changed completely – though I still have far to go.

I had one e-book fail completely. I lost my way with my blog. My writing went downhill. Eventually, even I noticed. So I asked close friends and they told me straight out – I’d effectively sold out. I’d compromised for the sake of stats, and my writing had become, frankly, crap as a result.

So I took a radical step. I took a break from publishing any work publicly until I was right. However long that took. I would just write privately every day, stream of consciousness, until I discovered my writers heart again.

It was painful.

It was difficult.

I felt humbled and ashamed. It showed me how much I’d lost it, and how addicted I had been to the adrenaline rush of publishing blog posts.

Write Freedom

But slowly and surely, I began to enjoy writing again. I forgot about the audience, I forgot about my blog, and just wrote for me, whatever was going on inside.

It was so liberating. I felt alive again. And I began to feel passions, ideas bursting up inside. I realised what I wanted to write about. How I wanted to help others avoid the trap I’d fallen into, and discover their identity, calling, and authentic self without letting ego, people pleasing, impossible expectations and the idol of success get in the way.

I now see how if we’re not careful, our desire for success can lead us to creating crap work – or at least, work which isn’t our best work, and not the work we were born to create.

Authentic is a word I use to describe our most honest work. Yes, it’s jargony, I admit. But it’s a useful word.

Time has helped me discovered the joy of creating the work which comes from your heart, a message from the rawness of your soul. And that’s what authentic work really is.

It’s work, yes.

It’s difficult, for sure.

It can even hurt at times.

Authenticity is not always romantic, easy, or happy. But it’s true. (you can tweet that)

Hemingway quote 1

And when those words come out, and you find yourself with something you know truly represents a part of your soul, there is a joy which follows.

I’m not going to sit here and say all my work is amazingly authentic now, and I’m not painting myself as a role model of authenticity. I still get it wrong sometimes, but fortunately I have good friends who tell me when I’m straying. And I’m being intentional in my efforts to be more authentic.

I’m currently working on my first full length book, which should come out sometime next year. A few years ago, I would have felt a failure unless it sold tens of thousands of copies.

But now I will be a success the day it goes on sale. Whether it sells one copy, a million, or none at all,  I will be a success the moment it releases.

Because I’ve learned what matters is not how many people like you, buy your work, recognise you on the street or remember your name.

It’s being true to who you were born to be. Being authentic in your life and work. 

Pursue that. Hunger and thirst for it. Never give up searching and striving for it. And find people who will be honest with you and tell you when you’re on the right and wrong paths.

Because if you’re not authentic, then you’ll never be truly you.

And finally, listen to that old wise sage called time. Because it has a lot to teach us about who we are and who we can be.




Question for Reflection:

How can you better pursue authenticity in your life & work?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!


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(Picture Sources: myadroit.com/bigbravesky.com)

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  1. Scott Bury on May 18, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    You can always tell a story, whether a book or a film, that was written just to sell copies. It never feels authentic. And you can always tell the story that is the result of the author’s passion, pain and experience. Great post.

    • James Prescott on May 18, 2015 at 6:44 pm

      Totally agree with you Scott – you can always tell if something is truly authentic or not…almost on a subconscious level. Truth is always expressed in creative work – even work which isn’t authentic. The truth in that work is simply that it’s not true. Great comment, thanks.

  2. mnicholeh on May 18, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    I agree James! Time and authenticity go hand in hand. It seems one gives way to the other until there is tension again. I pursue authenticity by staying in God’s word. My identity is in Him, so the more time I spend there, the more authentic I can be. Great post and great writing!

    • James Prescott on May 18, 2015 at 6:42 pm

      Glad you liked the post Nichole – great to hear how you pursue authenticity in your own life and work too. Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. Mike Loomis on May 18, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    Brilliant post, James… But more than a “post” – an expression of you!

    • James Prescott on May 18, 2015 at 6:41 pm

      Thanks Mike, think you might be right there, thank you!

  4. Alexandra Lanc on May 18, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    Wonderful blog post, James! I certainly agree, and I’ve dealt with this myself. Re-discovering your “writer self” is an extremely painful process, but you are right that it’s an important one, and after almost 5 years in publishing, I can definitely say that fame and recognition aren’t what’s important. I definitely believe that staying true to yourself and writing from your heart are what really make you feel fulfilled in the end. It’s a lesson I’ve had to re-learn the hard way, but I also believe that by learning it the hard way, you’re closer to your writing, and if down the road you achieve “success”, then you are well equipped to keep your focus in the right area.

    And you’re right, no matter how many purchases, you will be a winner on the day you release your work. Just writing makes you awesome!
    Keep writing, and best of luck with your book!
    Best Wishes,

    • James Prescott on May 18, 2015 at 6:40 pm

      Thanks so much for this kind comment Alexandra, so glad the post was encouraging to you – and thanks for the best wishes with the book, appreciate it!

  5. Mary Harwell Sayler on May 18, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    Amen. Thanks, James. I’ll highlight this on the Christian Poets & Writers blog – http://www.christianpoetsandwriters.com. God bless

    • James Prescott on May 18, 2015 at 6:39 pm

      Thank you Mary – appreciate you sharing this.

  6. Josh Collins on May 18, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    Good stuff here James! Agree with Mike below. Post doesn’t quite fit. It serves more as a guide for the rest of us!

    • James Prescott on May 18, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      Thanks Josh – your encouragement always means a lot.

  7. Bob Nailor on May 18, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    Interesting post. Great work.

  8. Diane Rapp on May 18, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    It’s difficult to say my books that take place on another planet or sailing on a ship are truly authentic to my life but pieces of me (and my family) drift into each story. I can’t help it and any good author shares what they know.

    My difficulty as an author hits when it seems so hard to get readers to write reviews. Did they really enjoy that book? The other day a friend stopped by to pick up my entire mystery series. She’s a real sci-fantasy fan and had just finished my Heirs to the Throne series (all four). She has never posted a review but told me in person how much the books mean to her personally. I guess we shouldn’t count up reviews for validation, sometimes we touch lives and never know it! Lesson learned.

  9. Luke Kuhns on May 18, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    Nice post, Jams!

  10. Charles Dougherty on May 18, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Nice, James. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on authenticity. Even though most of my work is fiction, there’s part of me in every story. I think readers respond positively to an honest presentation.

    • James Prescott on May 19, 2015 at 6:41 am

      Yep, totally agree Charles – truth comes out in our writing, whatever type it is, and people respond positively to honesty. Thanks for the comment!

  11. Elyse Salpeter on May 18, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    Sounds like you’re in a better place. Happy for you!

  12. Barbara Drewry on May 19, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    Thank you for sharing this, James. It encourages me today. I appreciate it…. and you. Have a good day! 🙂

    • James Prescott on May 20, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      Thanks Barbara – so glad the post encouraged you, thanks for the comment!

  13. lisajey on May 20, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    First of all, you weren’t lame for wanting to make your mark on the world in a big way. If you want to call that fame, so be it… but that’s the sacrifice people pay for being able to have that voice. I believe fame is not what it’s always cracked up to being. It requires of the sweetest people, the sudden, onset, neuroses of guarding their privacy… of asking close friends not to post photos of them from their birthday party… or hiring private investigators to track the stalker that creeps them out at night… — But knowing it’s what you wanted and reflecting, and realizing your motivations — well those are all good things… and we ALL re-think and re-position our goals as time goes by, even the famous. And by the time they’re famous they don’t have a whole lot they can do about it. Interesting post James! Enjoyed it!

    • James Prescott on May 20, 2015 at 7:34 pm

      Great comment Lisa Jey – it’s that balance between wanting to have an impact on people and allowing it to negatively impact you. Healthy ambition – to have a positive impact on others with your work – is good .But when you let it dictate what your work is, and you work just to get stats, glory and wealth, then you lose your honesty, your truth, your heart. So it’s all about balance.

      I agree completely that realising your goals, moving to a place where you feel called to, and achieving, are good things, and we definitely need to keep repositioning and reassessing our expectations and goals over time.

      Glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for the comment, great stuff!

  14. Tara Fairfield on May 22, 2015 at 2:22 am

    it is a powerful thing to be open to receiving feedback and growing. We don’t have to be perfect, we just have to be honest with ourselves and allow God to work in and through us. Blessings to you James.

    • James Prescott on May 23, 2015 at 10:44 am

      Thank you, absolutely spot on Tara – we don’t have to be perfect, just honest. Thanks for the encouragement.

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