Creative Authenticity - Introduction

This book is for artists and writers, and anyone else who is engaged in the difficult but personally revealing path of expressing themselves. It is for those that are actually doing it, one way or another.

My hope is that it will provide insights or tools or ideas to make the journey deeper, perhaps more conscious, and maybe even easier.

A friend reading the manuscript suggested the principles should be more active: Search for Beauty, rather than Searching for Beauty, for example. And that there could be an action step at the end of each principle.

That as it happens is exactly what I don't want this book to be. In raising questions and possibilities, a quick call to arms is probably going to be both superficial and counter-productive.

I'm not sure that this book is for the people that want to create, but don't. It seems to me in the end, as far as expressing yourself is concerned, you just have to plunge in, fears and all. There is something courageous about it. If a person is too timid even to start, I'm not sure what it would take to get that person started. I'm not a big believer in the books and courses that advocate going into creativity rituals and altar-making and mask-making in order to get unstuck and get started. Maybe that stuff works. I don't know. It just seems like more strategies to avoid getting on with it. This then is a book for people who are in the thick of it.

Desire is the messenger that you have something to say. I have tried to address this throughout in terms of your coming to terms with your own very personal take on that desire-its authenticity. Each principle rests on several basic assumptions I have about the need for authenticity:

  1. Because in the end there is no other kind of art.
  2. I could have used the word "originality", rather than authenticity, if the word's root in "origin", as in, from the depth or source, is recognized. However, the word implies a certain newness, "never done before," that authenticity does not, and art in general does not need, in order to be deeply personal.
  3. Something that is authentic "rings true" for us. It comes from an inner truth. We draw from a source that is inner-directed rather than outer-directed, to use Maslow's expression about self-actualization.
  4. Creating work that is authentic has a sacredness to it. It may be a way out-a small way perhaps, but at least a personal way-of a social dynamic that is all economics, consumerism, greed and disregard for inner life. The word "science" comes from a root meaning "to separate." Our cultural world view has been deeply influenced by that. Anything that we come to authentically in our artistic expression demands a personal inner synthesis. It is experience and insight won firsthand. The more we assimilate our "experience" from the advertising/media/consumer/government perspective the less authentic it will be.
  5. Most of what we express creatively is prelinguistic. The deeper insights are obviously coming from somewhere. They are not logically structured in the mind, but it may take logic to get them expressed.
  6. Ultimately, it doesn't matter to the world if you paint or dance or write. The world can probably get by without the product of your efforts. But that is not the point. The point is what the inner process of following your creative impulses will do, to you. It is clearly about process. Love the work, love the process. Our fascination will pull our attention forward. That, also, will fascinate the viewer.

I'm a painter. A representational one. This makes me until recently a dinosaur in the contemporary art world. Yet practicing any discipline over a long period of time gives one insights. Some things emerge clearly, others become at least a little more clear. Some things I had assumed or had been told were true or relevant, I discovered with experience were not. What follows are principles that are essential to authentic expression, at least for me. They are not necessarily completely distinct. I've separated them for the telling but obviously there are overlaps and some points could appear under several principles. Some are particularly relevant to representational painting. But many of the following principles I feel are common to all creative activity.