What does it mean to be authentic in one’s intellectual and creative pursuits? From a writer’s perspective, it means that you are being true to your art form and loyal to the creative process. From the magical world created in fiction to the colorful, musical landscapes of poetry, to the thought-provoking paragraphs of non-fiction prose, writers strive to be true to their subject matter and to the complex characters they bring to life on the page.
All writers try to achieve a level of authenticity in their work. As a fiction writer, I am constantly re-reading my pages for the day, wondering if my characters are believable, engaging and true to the story. Does each character have a unique voice? Can my readers picture a three-dimensional, living, breathing person when they read about Carla’s romantic misadventures in Dinner Dates, or can they suspend their disbelief when the narrator meets an angel in "Gertrude in the Park"? It’s my job to make sure they do. When writing a poem about a Native American walking alone with two horses, am I able to describe not just the colors of his horse blanket and the expansive sky, but also the internal struggles that he faces as he travels alone with no belongings? I have to give voice to that character’s emotion or else the poem falls flat and loses its authenticity. In writing an article for a newspaper or a magazine, the facts must be checked and double-checked. The information must be delivered in a way that is at once succinct and engaging. All writers must believe in what they are writing for it to be believable.
My favorite books to read are those in which the author creates a main character so real, so authentic, that I actually miss the character upon finishing the book. Like a longed for friend who lives in another state or country, I wish for more chapters to get to know the character even better and to simply bask in his or her presence. This is not only an authentic, genuine experience for the writer, but for the reader as well. I read engaging literature in the hopes that all of this authentic talent will rub off on me in my own work. I search through my personal caverns for fiction and create characters I would most like to have a heart-to-heart conversation with, and then I hold my breath – suspended – in this state of earnest authenticity.
What does it mean to be authentic as a writer? It means having your characters live in truth and backing them up with a written stage. If the imagination opens the door to other worlds, then the originator of that fiction must be authentic with every word set forth on the page to keep that enticing door open.