Today I welcome my good friend James Prescott to the Unmasked: stories of authenticity blog series. He is incredibly honest about his own journey, which also gives real insight into the struggle with authenticity that writers can have, especially when chasing after recognition. Thank you James for your honesty!
It’s a word which gets banded around a lot nowadays. Indeed, it’s been used so much that now it’s become a word associated with jargon, with anyone using it in relation to themselves, often being labelled as inauthentic.
But authenticity is needed more than ever.
As a writer, with the saturation of platform building, the urgent need for all authors to ‘brand’, and build a following, and marketing intruding into the writing world more and more, a writer I need to keep my eyes open to any lack of integrity and honesty in my work.
But there was a time when I lost my authenticity – as a writer, and as a result, as a person. And it came from this need to please, this desperation for success, for followers.
I had been writing for a while, and enjoyed blogging. I toyed with wanting more, but had never pushed for it. Then I did a writing course which challenged me to step up, be more professional, and to write an e-book, a manifesto, and make it public.
The promise, the guarantee which was dangled out in front of me, was lots of people subscribing to my blog, and ultimately a book contract. Given I had no followers at the time, it was beyond anything I could imagine.
And it triggered my then fragile ego, and gave it life. In time, I began to lose my soul. My writing lost focus, lost its truth. I was more focused on good graphics, comments and titles than great blog posts – and I didn’t even know what my voice really was.
I look back at that time disappointed in myself. I was more concerned with numbers, with stats, than creating great, honest work. And I’d lost myself in the process too. The whole image I was giving to the world, I knew wasn’t true. This impacted every single area of my life.
When I lost my authenticity, I almost didn’t know who I was anymore.
I was wearing a mask, not even knowing who I was underneath.
And once good friends confirmed this to me, I had to take action. It couldn’t go on this way. So I made an ultimately life-changing decision.
I decided to stop writing publicly. For as long as it took for me to find my voice.
For as long as it took to find my integrity.
For as long as it took to find myself again.
So I wrote for myself on a private blog, every day for 15 minutes. Free-writing. No agenda, no plan, no structure, no editing. As time went on, it was something I began to look forward to. It saved me so much energy I’d used worrying about promoting work, or publishing blog posts.
Slowly, but surely, I began to notice many of these posts were all pointing to a particular direction. Similar themes were emerging. Themes around creativity, identity, calling, and being true to yourself. What it meant to be an authentic writer.
Suddenly, words were pouring out of me. I wrote about 10 ‘proper’ blog posts in a short space of time, all unpublished of course. It became the most creative, most enjoyable period I’ve had as a writer.
And I felt more alive, more myself than I’d ever felt in my life.
I felt like me again. In fact, I knew I’d connected with my true self.
When the time came to publish publicly again, I was reluctant. But I now knew I had something worthwhile to share. And I was going to share it, not for anyone else, but for me. Because it was who I was.
This material poured out into an e-book. I launched and promoted it, not expecting anything back and not even needing any major response anymore. I didn’t care. And strangely, it ended up being my most successful piece of work.
But the point of it all was – I was myself again. I’d connected with my true self. I’d taken off the mask and found who I really was.
And that’s what being authentic is all about. It’s about connecting with your truest self. Having integrity in how you live your life.
When you find that, it impacts every area of your life. Work. Faith. Relationships. Health.
So today, have the courage to take off your masks and be who you truly are. Tell the truth of your story.
From my experience, you’ll never have any cause to regret it.
James Prescott is a writer, podcaster and writing coach from Sutton, near London. He is the author of numerous books including Dance Of The Writer – The Beginners Guide To Authentic Writing, and Mosaic Of Grace. He has written for the Huffington Post and is a ‘Top Writer’ on creativity and writing on Medium, as well as hosting the weekly Poema Podcast. You can access all his work at jamesprescott.co.uk and follow him on Twitter at @JamesPrescott77