Authenticity is a topic I come back to time and time again, as much for my benefit as yours. Well, OK, entirely for my own benefit. I keep looking at authenticity because it is my ideal home, and the home I want to keep.
I'm sure many people who are creating, or not, can relate to the barriers to authenticity which seem to get amplified through time spent on social media. I imagine most of us love it and hate it in equal measures because of the challenges it poses to our self esteem, sense of worth, abilities as artists and people. I know I do. I value social media in all it's forms for how it has let business flourish, but I also fear the anxieties it creates within me. Is my work as good as theirs? Why am I not getting help with promo? is being unique a good thing? I don't have an art degree, am I fraud? Sometimes it's a minute-by-minute battle to stay afloat and keep it all reasoned and balanced. Sometimes you need to withdraw, recharge, rethink the 'strategy'.
Then yesterday I came across this interview with Artist and Illustrator Lisa Congdon on Meighan O'Toole's website, a sort of mini-preview of her new book (which I must read) and brought to my attention by Viktorija from AndSmileStudio (It's no surprise that Viktorija saw something in this interview enough to tweet the link because she's another artist I find very giving, open and authentic. Three qualities I very much admire.) Lisa offers a great deal of insight over a wealth of art topics, but it was the closing ten minutes of her interview that really hit home the most on this occasion.
So I thought I would summarise some of what I heard in a conflation of Lisa's words and my own evolving thoughts. Some of the things she mentions very much mirror a process I have been going through over the last few weeks and will continue to do in a bid to keep myself and Blue Eggs and Tea on the authentic track; the track that's right for me. I hope you will find this combo of thinking a help if you're feeling in a similar position?
1. Surround yourself with creative inspiration and support. Create a world for yourself.
Social media is like a big loud party in a huge club where you can't see or hear anything properly it's just all noise. And the thing is, I always preferred a quiet evening in the pub, or tea and cake at the local cafe. Too much noise isn't nourishing, and too much noise from sources that don't speak to your own values and morals can be draining. So I am working on streamlining the noise I hear, and maintaining the voices who help build a positive community. This is an ongoing process, and isn't easy. Sometimes the voices we're drawn to are destructive, even when they don't mean to be. Someone unfollowed me on twitter the other day. I guess because I talk too much about stuff she doesn't care about. I felt affronted for a sec because influential unfollowers for a small creative business doesn't feel helpful, but then I realised I don't understand her world either. So I guess we unfollowed each other in the end, and that's fine.
2. Work with Your People.
Not everyone will love what you do. Not everyone will like it. Some might hate it and think it's rubbish, and talentless and not worth touching. That's OK (It almost hurt to write that but it's true.) Actually, as Lisa rightly points out there is space for everyone, and not being beaten down by fear of those you don't please is really important, because your energy can be better spent working with those who do Get It and Get You. I am always so inspired by the people I consider to be my Blue Eggs and Tea family, because I value your support that comes in many forms. I know you're with me as I develop my style and try new ideas. You have my back and that's an empowering positive feature of social media.
3. Don't be what you're not.
This is so obvious as to be almost not worth stating. But actually it's more nuanced than this....it's about not selling out on your ethos and ethics, your morals and what makes you, You. Whenever I create something or say something on social media I have to consider will this 'be me'. Will it reflect my image and how I want it to be reflected. If not, then I don't add it, post it, say it. But this is only partly authentic I guess, because those who know me will know I struggle with not saying the things I really want to. But holding some things back isn't about not being authentic, it's about saying I'm a layered person, but you don't need to hear it all right here and right now and if you want to know it then be friends with me and I will talk to you about it another time. It's about staying appropriate, staying true to your North and not worrying about fitting in with the prevailing wind. It's about believing in your own style and your own world even when that world over there might look appealing for a moment. You know deep down it's not for you.
4. Inspire and support the right way
Be nice, be kind has always been a core motto of mine. Be nice to everyone is Lisa's take. The essence is the same. Don't be boastful and showy. Don't knowingly make people feel bad. Don't be competitive in a destructive way. Don't use the humble brag. Don't shut doors in people's faces when they seek advice. Take time to help and share knowledge. Don't be status obsessed or hung up on who has more followers, or sells more, or has a nicer home, or goes on better trips. All of these things waste your precious time and there very genuinely are way more important things than what you wore and what you painted. Be nice to people and people are nice back. Wish people the best, and they wish you the best in return. This can be so hard when you're mired in your own frustrations but I want to aim for this for sure. I guess this sometimes means betraying the inner voice that wants to have a tantrum, and can this then be authentic? Well, yes, it's authentic to a greater good instead of the insecure inner-child.
These are things I'm working on in the quest to earn my right to stay in my most loved house of authenticity. I probably have no right to be here, the mortgage is huge. But I love the way it looks and feels and smells, and I would dearly love to open it out to all my friends so we can get together and talk, and feel happy and content with our selves and our own style.