Maintaining Author Authenticity
This is about to get deep so hold on tight....
I've been watching an older reality show called Ink Masters. The premise was to get the best tattoo artists in the world and have them compete to see who could be crowned Ink Master at the end of each season.
Every time a new crop of artists came to the show they inevitably buckled under the pressure. We're talking about seasoned veterans of the tattoo industry with over a decade of experience putting out crappy tattoos and being voted off by the panel of judges.
I started to wonder why that would be happening. The more I watched, the more I realized that it wasn't because they were poor artists, it's because the environment itself didn't provide a proper creative space for them to perform at the level they usually do.
One of the artists name Pony summed it up perfectly on her exit. She said:
"If you have to step on others to become the Ink Master, then I'm not the Ink Master. I'm going to go home and continue to create beautiful tattoos with no rules."
No rules. That stuck out to me. Yes, there are rules to every industry. And yes, the show had specific rules in place to win the challenges. But art, no matter the medium, can't be defined by rules.
The majority of my life I've been judged by others. Be it family, friends, or even strangers they all want to weigh in on what you should wear, how you do your makeup and hair, what your vocation should be, or who you hang out with. To this day I still have constant chatter about my physique or my faith. The world has become a place where others believe they have the right to tell you how you should or should not live your life. It stems from their own insecurities. They need you to agree with their choices so they feel validated.
Listen to how many times a person says 'right' in a sentence while speaking to you and you'll understand what I mean. The world of social media has created this craving for instant validation. When you respond with 'right' it's the equivalent of clicking the 'like' button on their page. But if you don't agree with them immediately they panic because they start to question their own choices. It's quite unhealthy and reminds me of the episode of Black Mirror called 'Nosedive' with Bryce Dallas Howard where the entire world is driven by social credit scores.
It's perfectly fine to have an opposing opinion to someone else. What's not alright is trying to force your opinion onto others as though the way you see the world is the only way that it's allowed to be. Research some history on that and it will explain why. Go ahead, I'll wait...but hurry before all of those lessons have been erased.
Why am I bringing all this up? Because it is important to keep creativity unshackled by rules. That goes for tattooing, writing, music, movies, painting, and any other form of medium used as a creative outlet. Some of the most beautiful, moving, and inspired works came from imaginations unhindered by thoughts of being persecuted.
Creative work is often meant to start a conversation. It's also a way to escape reality for awhile. But if everyone is pigeon-holed into a box because someone might be offended by the tiniest thing then we lose colors for our paint brush. When you start telling people what they can or cannot create suddenly the world goes gray.*
"No one should be telling me as an artist that I have to give into the latest, most current idea of what morality is." - Richard Dreyfuss
It's important to remain your authentic self as an author or other creator. If you're hampered by trying to please everyone with your work you'll never complete it. You can't please everyone...you're not pizza! So, just do you and don't worry about the faceless mob trying to come after you. It's all mind over matter.
*Note: I am not endorsing sexually explicit books aimed at grade schoolers. That's a different conversation.