the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.
inventiveness, imagination, imaginativeness, innovation, innovativeness, originality, artistry, expressiveness, inspiration, vision, creative power, creative talent, creative gift, creative skill, resourcefulness, ingenuity, enterprise
In my last post on Becoming a Wealthy Creative I wrote about the super-power of ‘consistency’. It was quite good really, you should read it here if you haven’t already.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to play at a live event. I haven’t played one of these for a while and I was suddenly reminded of an all too familiar feeling as I arrived at the venue for my sound check. My music is mostly instrumental, i.e. it doesn’t have words and it is also fairly ‘classical’ in sound and so doesn’t really have any driving rhythmic beat. I have realized over time that in my mind this equals ‘it’s not cool enough’. I have this repeat anxiety every time I play somewhere that isn’t a concert hall, where audiences are used to sing/song-writer vibes, foot-stomping folk or oh-so-hip electronic. I usually sit and listen to all the other acts thinking to myself “what on earth am I doing here? I am going to bore these people to tears”. As I took the stage at this gig I looked out at the audience and I decided that they were indeed going to love what I had to offer them. They were going to be touched by it, because I was going to give them something of myself. Something that was authentically me. I shared the stories (my stories) of each composition and played them. I made a joke about the fact that my inner muso is actually a rapper but that the music that flows out of me is in fact mostly instrumental and quite lyrical. The audience laughed and I laughed and that eased us both into the set. Afterwards a number of people came up to me and told me how touched they had been by my performance. I realized in that moment that I would have robbed both of us of that experience if I’d gone up there and given them something that didn’t come from a deep place in me.
A definition of authenticity that I love is from the incredible author Brene Brown. She says that “authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are”.
Authenticity and owning your story are some of the most important things that one can learn in life. I wasn’t what you’d call a ‘cool kid’ growing up. Being sporty, academic or really pretty were the things to be at school and well, let’s just say that I’m a late bloomer and spent most of my school life trying to get out of sports events because I didn’t really see a point in taking part if I always came last. I was so much happier when I was reading or on stage or making people laugh. I actually wanted to be a library monitor because I loved using that scanny thing on the computer and I also got to take out more books than the other kids. This didn’t really earn me much in the currency of cool though and I spent many hours wishing that I was someone else. We all have this need to be accepted and many times I sacrificed my authenticity to fit in.
It takes a lot of courage to start owning your story. To recognize the things that have shaped you and the mindsets that you have. When all is said and done it is often helpful to go back to those games you played when you were little. Before you knew what a ‘real job’ was, or what kind of music or art you ‘should be’ making. Before all the boxes were enforced and most importantly, before you got scared of you and other people.
My favourite game to play as a little girl was ‘concert concert’. The passage in my parents’ house was the backstage area and that led onto the stage (aka lounge) where the piano was. I’d walk on to stage and introduce myself as a number of other people first and then play really badly. Right at the end of the concert I’d come on to the stage and introduce myself as me and then proceed to play beautifully and the crowds in my imagination would go wild. Fast forward a few years, a few scary boxes and the idea of ‘should’ and you have a teenager who struggles with performance anxiety and doesn’t sleep at all before her music exams and also has no courage to pursue any of the dreams she had about creating her own music and sound. This idea of your story not being good enough? The authentic ‘you’ being something to be ashamed of? Crippling. And most importantly a killer of creativity.
I have slowly been making my way back to being that little girl who played ‘concert concert’ (photographic evidence included). Owning my space more and embracing and developing the sound that comes from me. Of course I want to broaden my skills and knowledge. I want to be able to write in many different styles of music and also to write some songs that have words BUT this should never be to please someone else. As a working musician and composer I have of course had to play and write music that isn’t as ‘me’ as my own music (any cellists out there ever played Pachelbel’s Canon and not wanted to poke out both their own eyes?) but I guess my point is around the things we create and give from that heart place.
Here are a few things that I have found helpful in developing authenticity and ways I’ve started owning my story (I have most definitely not got this all figured out, but love to share what I’ve learned):
- Be grateful for your story. Recognize how it has shaped you (the good, the bad and the really tough) and then start to own it.
- Love yourself. This is easier said than done. But if you can really love yourself and the unique flavour you bring to the world around you, then you will find being authentic and creating from this space becoming a little easier.
- If you earn a living from your creative talents then decide for yourself how much you are willing to do in terms of work that isn’t as authentically you and how much work you want to do where you get to put your mark on something. Passion projects are really important to keep your spark going if you don’t get to do that a lot in the work that puts food on your table.
- Have a high value for what comes out of you naturally.
- Comparison is your worst enemy…steer clear!
- Explore and experiment with new things all the time. Maybe there is even more to what’s inside you than you think.
- Discovering your story is a dynamic process and often when you think you’ve just figured it out…it becomes something else. Embrace this.
You were created to be an original. Not a copy.
We’d love to hear from you. Please comment below and feel free to share a tip with us on how you’ve developed authenticity and owning your story.