"We are either authentic, or we're not!" That was the gist of a comment on a Linkedin discussion board yesterday. I wish I had saved the comment so that I could link back to it. If the person who wrote it is reading this, please post a comment and a link to your article - it was terrific.
Authenticity is one of the buzzwords of marketing these days and I really wonder about it. I agree with the concept but telling a person who is busy marketing a product or service that they must BECOME authentic seems a bit like nonsense, or buzz-speak, or BS. Some people are able to reveal their weaknesses, foibles, challenges and failures and do so in a manner that is not only believable, but natural. On the other hand, some of it is simply a little too contrived for my liking. None of us are perfect, none of us have had perfect lives, none of us have had an unbroken string of successes and for an author, this is the key. If you have the courage (and frankly, it is more than courage, it takes "real guts") to share the truth about yourself, your ideas and your life with your readers, then you make the ultimate connection with them.
This applies to more than just memoirs and self-help books but to the "how-to" genre as well as more academic pursuits. Writing a book leaves each of us open to criticism on many levels - everything from our facts and assumptions to our lifestyle but the truly authentic author says, " Alright, I'm willing to take that risk and expose myself and my ideas." This doesn't mean that we should expect our readers to agree with our ideas just because we are authentic but it does give a reader an opportunity to understand the source of your opinions and move forward from there.
Authenticity really does separate the outstanding from the mundane but it stems from a grasp on personal truth and reality and can never be faked or created - it just is, and it may be the most powerful tool in your writing arsenal. Try it.