“I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.” ~ Jack Kerouac
One of the biggest impediments to creative expression and creative genius is the belief that you must be original.
Creative people often hit a snag in their creative lives because they imagine that to stand out or succeed they must create something that has never been created before. Ever!
This kind of thinking – that you must create something new that has never ever been seen before to succeed – heaps a whole lot of pressure on creatives. And that kind of pressure can be disempowering and crippling.
Elizabeth Gilbert, in her bestselling book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” writes these revealing words:
“By the time Shakespeare was finished with his run on life, he’d pretty much covered every story line there is, but that hasn’t stopped nearly five centuries of writers from exploring the same story lines all over again. (And remember, many of those stories were already clichés long before even Shakespeare got his hands on them.)
When Picasso saw the ancient cave paintings at Lascaux, he reportedly said, ‘We have learned nothing in twelve thousand years’ — which is probably true, but so what?”
Indeed, so what?
So what if you repeat the same themes in your art? So what if generation after generation we circle back to the same ideas? So what if every generation asks the same questions and feels the same creative urges? Are we not all humans? Related?
Every human being is fundamentally the same. We pine for the same things: Love, happiness, peace, beauty, and so on. There will, inevitably, be repetitions, overlaps in our life experiences and creative expressions. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Embrace the Authentic Life
“Everything reminds us of something. But once you put your own expression and passion behind an idea, that idea becomes yours,” writes Elizabeth. In other words, you don’t need to worry about being original; you just need to worry about being authentic.
Be totally you in the way you express your ideas. Be guided by an internal compass and not by the need to be “different” or “revolutionary.” Be free to write or create something that truly excites you instead of something that follows the conventions or typical paths ordered by others.
Skeptics will interject and try to bring you back into the fold, but it takes courage to hold firm in your convictions and be your own person. It takes inner strength to live a uniquely crafted life that honors your inner person and that doesn’t succumb to societal pressures to conformity or pretend.
Find Your Authentic Self
Being your true self amidst a sea of posers and imposters is not easy, but I am sure you’d rather connect with people who are real than people who pretend around you. I’m sure you’d rather interact with people who are authentic than people who are fake.
Interacting with a truly authentic person; a person who is not bogged down by falsehoods and pretenses is such a pleasure. As American actress and fashion model Andie MacDowell said, "When you are authentic, you create a certain energy, people want to be around you because you are unique.”
Align yourself to your values and goals, and live your life authentically. Do not waiver in the face of mediocrity and conformity, especially in todays age of vain comparisons and popularity contests on social media. If you are your authentic self, you have no competition.
Key Qualities of Authentic Creatives
Here are some key things highly authentic creatives do differently that brings forth such satisfying and attractive interactions and expressions:
1. They embrace and celebrate their inner person.
All their likes, dislikes, quirks and idiosyncrasies make them stand out from the crowd. It is this that gives them an edge. And so they are unapologetic of who they are inside.
Highly authentic creatives are perfectly happy with their own company and vehemently protect the quality time they spend with themselves. This self-love, self-esteem shows in their work.
2. They let their true feelings shine through unabashed.
What they feel inside, they don’t hide. What they don’t feel inside, they don’t pretend to feel. They are sincere and make known their true emotions compassionately.
Authentic creative people say and do what’s in their hearts, and voice their opinions firmly and honestly. This makes them confident and truthful because they have nothing to hide.
3. They let go of the need to please everybody.
Many people have a need to fit in and be accepted. So, they pretend they are someone they are not. Highly authentic creative people don’t have that need. They don’t bother to please everyone or strive to live up to others’ expectation. They simply choose to live an unscripted life that is free of the shackles of everyone in society telling them what to do.
Highly authentic creatives allow others to form whatever opinions they wish to have and don’t take it personally when someone obviously dislikes them or criticizes their works. This is because they have high self-esteem and are comfortable in their own skin.
4. They follow their heart and accept that their journey will not be the same as everyone else’s.
Highly authentic creatives don’t fear taking a path that other people haven't travelled. In fact, they find it exhilarating and comfortable to follow the least trodden path where their heart is, than the beaten path where their heart is not.
Authentic people don’t compare their journey to anyone else’s. They know what works for another person might not necessarily work for them. This helps them stay focused and true to themselves.
5. They tell the truth always, particularly through their art.
People who are not sincere and self-assured tell lies so easily and readily that it becomes second nature to them. Highly authentic people tell the truth always. They don’t deceive, cheat, manipulate or lie. Even when the truth is somewhat uncomfortable, they tell it anyway.
And that keeps authentic creatives at peace with themselves and with others. Truth builds trust and strengthens relationships.
6. They make all the important decisions for themselves.
Highly authentic creatives make decisions boldly and conscientiously. They don’t shun decision-making. When you make decisions for yourself, your brain feels in control. It feels at rest. And feeling in control and at rest reduces stress and improves mood.
Besides, making good decisions also boosts our pleasure. When you make a decision on a goal and achieve it, you feel better than when good things just happen by chance.
However, if you allow others to make all the important decisions for you and you just follow behind, the only person who stands to lose is you.
7. They own up, take responsibility for their mistakes and shortcomings.
Highly authentic creatives don’t blame others for their own mistakes. They own up and take responsibility for every decision and action they make in their life, whether the outcome is positive or negative. When you are the first to admit you were wrong or that you made a mistake somewhere, you open doors for correction, support and genuine help from others.
Everybody makes mistakes. What really matters is what you do after you’ve made a mistake.
8. They consider their gut feeling.
Highly authentic people are driven to action by an inner-motor, rather than external triggers. They don’t rush to act before first understanding a situation and considering how they feel about it.
Authentic people seek (and listen to) other people’s counsel, but don’t apply any given advice without first considering their own gut feeling. This is because they understand that the buck ultimately stops with you. And so they listen to their gut feeling.
Actually, authentic creatives trust their gut feelings so much that they only take steps or actions they feel they will be comfortable living with the consequences for the rest of their lives.
9. They keep an open mind.
Highly authentic creative people are fascinated with exploring the depths of other living beings, including humans and other creatures in the natural environment. They are open to new ideas and listen to everyone with a keen ear and open mind. This is because they know they don’t have a monopoly of knowledge or ideas, and they don’t exist in a vacuum.
When you keep a closed mind, chances are you will be rude, ignorant, and completely intolerant of other people’s views, feelings, and beliefs.
However, if you are open minded and willing to learn, you’ll keep growing from strength to strength. You’ll have realistic expectations and perceptions of the world, as well as access to new knowledge and insights that'll propel you to great heights.
10. They value life experiences over material things.
Highly authentic creative people make choices and take actions based mainly on how best to touch lives and impact people positively, not merely by how much money they will get. They may work towards a better life and seek material goodies, but not at the expense of the people, relationships, and experiences they have.
For authentic creatives, it is not how much money you make that counts, but rather the lives you touch and the lessons you learn and impart along the way.
Authentic people see beauty in experiences and relationships. And they try to support others and help them to grow and be their best selves too. They know, in the end, meaningful experiences and relationships matter more than material things.