Friday, July 10, 2015

It's All about Showing Up with Your Real Self: What Keeps Us Away from Our Authentic Creativity?

One of my favorite books to shake myself out of creative slumps is a thin little volume called Creative Authenticity.  Author Ian Roberts covers a vast landscape in just 175 pages:  essays on the search for beauty, craft and voice, the dance of avoidance, methods for working.  I especially like his tips on when to recognize that moment when you're ready to "show"--to put your work out into the world. 


Roberts's passion:  the nature of authenticity in art.  How do we find and develop our real voice?  What happens when we shy away from our emerging authenticity?  Why are we so afraid of this authenticity?

I recently took a voice lesson from a master teacher.  I wanted to give my spouse a birthday gift of a lesson but I decided to take one too.  I speak for a living, I sing for pleasure, and I'm curious about my voice and what it reveals about me.



The voice studio is in midtown Manhattan, a tiny room dominated by a Steinway grand piano.  In the hallway when we arrived, we could hear an operatic tenor practicing.  On the walls were signed posters from Broadway stars.  My growing nervousness was immediately calmed by the warm ease of the teacher.  I sat back and watched my spouse being led through vocalization exercises, glad I was going second.

What an amazing technician this teacher was!  When it was my turn, she pinpointed several areas where I was holding back.  I felt teary as I remembered when in my past I'd silenced myself, until it had become a habit and began to manifest in my voice.  "My only goal,"  she told us, "is to take away anything that's not your true voice."  

Most of us learn to express ourselves, whether on the page or vocally, in an environment of restriction.  We back away from our own voices until we have trouble even showing up on the page.  As we left the voice studio that morning, stunned with everything we'd learned, I thought about my most underlined chapter in Creative Authenticity.  It's called "Showing Up." 

So many writers believe that talent determines success.  Actually, it doesn't.  It's secondary to showing up.  Showing up means you bring your real self, your authentic voice, to your work--even if it scares you.

Roberts is not alone in saying this.  Twyla Tharp, in her equally helpful book, The Creative Habit, and Louise DeSalvo in The Art of Slow Writing, discuss how very FEW writers and artists make it on talent alone.  Those who are able to show up to their desk or easel or studio every day and put themselves on the line, create from the place they really live inside--these are the ones who finish that book, who get published.

Your writing exercise this week is to consider this idea:  what if showing up is 90 percent of what it takes to plan, write, and develop--and publish--a book?  And if it is, what keeps you from showing up?   It can benefit you and your authentic creativity greatly if you spend a few minutes writing about this.