Part I of Authenticity, Creativity, & Criticism

“Better to leave his writing honest and in a drawer than sanitized and read by the masses.” Matt Fagerholm, literary editor at Roger Ebert’s website for film analysis regarding J.D. Salinger.

For years, after my censored and outright ban of writing, I struggled to commit any of my thoughts to writing. It didn’t matter if it was poetry, fiction, diary, whatever, I feared the consequences of my words being “discovered”. Couple that with extreme self-doubt, it was as though I was paralyzed from writing. The words seemed as they were jammed in my brain. People, knowing I enjoyed writing, would buy me beautiful notebooks, but so many of them would either have ripped-out pages or be entirely blank.

I remember reading someone say that what we do not commit to paper can always be perfect, and though Fagerholm assessed Salinger as leaving his honest work in a drawer, I was different.

No matter what, I could not be honest on the page. After living with a mother who would snatch my journals out from under me as I wrote in them and an abusive boyfriend who refused to let me have any access to pen or paper, I feared writing anything, lest it be misinterpreted. I couldn’t speak in truths because my truth scared people, and I couldn’t speak in metaphors because they’d be interpreted as truth.

Finally freed from my prisons, I began to find my voice, and over time, I discovered my confidence. I worked through my embarrassing purple prose and began to really define my unique voice. And for so long, that was it on the subject – people determined to obfuscate my words and criticize me just to watch me crumble were in my rear view mirror.

I became a well of creativity. I explored all different writing styles and experimented with pieces as short as nine words or as long as 90,000 words. I tried on pseudonyms and experimented with genre. Always content with a few people reading my blog, I thought that was who I needed to be. Work a traditional job and create on the side. My voice was slowly solidifying into an authentic storyteller. I no longer questioned my ability.

Then, I made a friend and met author Laurie Halse Anderson. Both encouraged me to share my story. The friend insisted I seek out publishers and Laurie Halse Anderson told me to shout my story. She told me whether they knew it or not, people needed to hear my voice. So, I began submitting my writing places. There were rejections and acceptances, but I had found my stride. I realized that I could not be a true creative without being truly authentic.

Sharing my story freely meant it wouldn’t be sanitized. What you see is what you get. I was willing to show my mistakes and display my flaws because of what I had been telling myself for years: it’s not in spite of my imperfections that I’m wonderful, it’s because of them.

My words could not be sanitized. They had to explore the darker themes. No longer could every story tie up neatly with a bow. My poetry became confessional. I was compared to my idols. Authenticity made my creative voice uniquely my own.

Stay tuned for Part II to read about how criticism and Imposter’s Syndrome have affected me.

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