I recently recorded an off-the-cuff YouTube video for my Patreon patrons about something that came up for me after reading Stephen King's book, On Writing. I won't repeat what I said in the video (you can find it at patreon.com/mkateallen if you're interested), but I wanted to offer some thoughts here about the process of making that video.
I recorded it without planning what I was going to say ahead of time and without editing the video afterward. It was, more than any YouTube or TikTok video I've made, unscripted and unprepared. I'd been thinking about a sticky and potentially embarrassing question from Stephen King's book for a few days, and without having reached a satisfactory answer for myself, I decided to talk it out real-time in the video.
As I was recording it, after I recorded it, and after I posted it, I had the creeping thought that the whole thing might have been a really bad idea. Who wants to see something raw? How do I know I didn't just make a fool of myself?
These two questions have kept me up late more than one of the last few nights, and I don't have a good answer.
What I do know is that if my work isn't rooted in something more compelling than its polish, if it isn't also somehow raw and vulnerable, then it isn't authentic.
The problem is that authenticity is, in my experience, the most challenging thing a creative person can attempt. It's scary, exposing, and potentially humiliating. Being seen when I feel vulnerable and uncertain, when it seems like the only two choices for showing up are unattractive substance and dazzling half-truths, makes me want to throw up.
But authenticity is also, as far as I can tell, the point of creativity. If I fling authenticity as far as I can out of view in order to claw my way toward what I think others will prefer, have I not already failed?
Authenticity is where my rage over what's happening in Ukraine and my grief about the world's multifaceted brokenness happens. Authenticity is the means by which my true self in all its facets--the loving, the selfish, the inspired, the jealous, and all the rest of it--becomes apparent to me. Without it, I risk blindness to the depths of the human heart, my own and those of others.
I could find good reasons to compromise my authenticity as a writer, but why, when the desire for authenticity is the reason I write in the first place?
Is the effort to be authentic worth the risk of being fully seen for all you are--good, bad, and all in between?