How Authentic is TOO Authentic?

The subject I want to discuss today is authenticity. We won’t even debate it, as the topic has been covered at length; authenticity is surely important in writing. People don’t want to be lied to. They don’t want a pitch. They want a real conversation with a real person. Being authentic gives them exactly that.

But is there such thing as being TOO authentic? I mean, sure, being authentic basically means being vulnerable. Opening up to your people. However, perhaps some details hurt more than they help. Sure, you started from the bottom, and maybe you are still there. Is it necessary, though, to mention that you work a dead end job and all your work friends are drug addicts?

If you are trying to convince someone to give you money, should you harp on the fact that you just got out of prison for extortion? If you are trying to be a babysitter, maybe you shouldn’t mention you utterly abhor children. It really would seem that even authenticity fails at some level.

What Exactly IS Authenticity Though?

As I mentioned before, authenticity means being vulnerable; or more accurate, allowing yourself to be vulnerable in front of your audience. Exposing the true you to your readers and giving them a glimpse under the masks we all wear is the quickest way to convincing them to trust you. The thing is, it won’t make everyone trust you. It only works on those that resonate with you as a person.

Kind of like making friends. You will be you, and even the most likeable people have enemies. Not everyone will want to be your friend, but those that do, your message will really speak to. So just being honest and letting those people in will lay the groundwork for them to be willing to reciprocate.

And this is ultimately the relationship all writers want with their readers, is it not? No matter what you write, be it novels or blog posts or news articles or advertisements, you want your reader to trust you and open up to you. When they do that, they fully receive whatever message it is you are trying to convey.

It’s All About Posture....and Maybe Context

In my humble opinion, I think you can pull off bold, brazen and unabashed authenticity if you posture yourself in the right way. I think you can admit fully embarrassing or even seemingly inappropriate things like dead end jobs and druggy friends or your hatred for children or anything else if you do it with poise and confidence…and it’s relevant.

If the information is pertinent to the story, or it will make your audience fully understand your message, you can be as honest and forthright as you feel. If you are a salesperson offering financial advice and admit to being an ex-convict with a record for fraud, so long as you express that you are using your uncanny knowledge of how to take advantage of people to protect them, and you are being honest, you can use that story to win your audience over.

Basically, as long as your uncomfortable level of truthfulness has CONTEXT you can open up as much as you want to. You can use the world as your psychologist and your writing as the couch if it creates the foundation of your point.

The key is not to be afraid to go all the way with your story. You don’t HAVE to hold back. You can embrace your shortcomings proudly because you have an opinion. Likely a well thought-out opinion too. An opinion, not only on the subject at hand, but also on why your shortcomings aren’t a hindrance. And your honesty won’t always win you the client, but it will make the ones that see you for who you are incredibly loyal.