On Being Authentic


Artist Gregory Manchess has put together what he’s calling “10 Things to Remember About Training” – a list of items dealing with creativity in practice and in theory. You can read the full list here, but I wanted to point out number two on his list:

“2. Learn to be authentic.
No one is quite like you anyway. Forget about being original. “Oh, it’s so original!” Bah. You already are. Take the higher road, and learn to be authentic.”

(Painting by Gregory Manchess)


I’d like to talk more about this. My closest friends and family have had to listen to me rattle on and on about being “genuine” and “authentic” for the last five or six years now, but it’s something that I’ve only felt stronger about over the passing years. Gregory’s statement just sums up so well what I’ve been thinking.

Have you seen the film “A Beautiful Mind”? The dramatized biography of asocial mathematician John Nash, played by Russell Crowe? For those of you who haven’t seen it (and as a reminder for those of you who might have forgotten): a large part of the film is devoted to telling how John Nash is dedicated to finding a single original idea that has never been published, an idea that no one has ever come up with before. While the film isn’t entirely factual, it’s that search for a single original idea that frustrates me to no end.


I think that most of us would like to come up with something original that’s never been done before — but it might be the wrong thing to search for. Gregory said it: “No one is quite like you anyway. Forget about being original.” Our childhoods and idiosyncrasies and nightmares and taste buds are so vastly different from each other that we really don’t have to worry about seeing the world in a different way or developing a unique perspective on life. We already have a unique perspective. We are already singular, even if we don’t like the ways that we are original. The goal is to be authentic. To be completely ourselves. To put it another way:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

I can’t help but think of a passage in Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, where he mentions that if man searches for God in nature, what he will find is not proof of God, but further proof that nature exists.


In any case, I like to end my writing and drawing presentations with this message: I want to read the books that you want to create. I want to read the stories that you are dying to tell. I want to read the stories that you are living to tell. No one else is going to tell your stories. I don’t want to read a work that’s been carefully marketed to target a specific demographic to make x amount of dollars – I want to read your stories, and I want to make my stories.


I want to thank those of you who support me and my work, and believe in my message. I work hard to tell the stories that I’m dying to tell, and to make the pictures that I’m passionate about making. It means a lot to me to feel your encouragement and to know that there are readers and followers who get something out of the work I love. Thank you.

3 Responses to “On Being Authentic”
  1. RoosterTree says:

    Great post, Jess! I love the idea that we shouldn’t worry about originality–we already are–but authenticity.

  2. bluemoonpaul says:

    Sweet post. In regards to originality, authenticity, quality and quantity, it seems best to get out of our own way. Over the years, I’ve let so many things stop me or slow me down…

    • Jess Smart Smiley says:

      We must get do things our own way, right? Isn’t that part of being authentic? It’s so easy to get distracted or to take a different path, because everywhere we go someone is trying to tell us what to do and how to do it, as though they presume to know what we have to offer each other. It’s important to note that we can still be authentic within constraints, like work schedules and methods, family relationships, etc.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


    • 129,432 Visitors since March 2011
%d bloggers like this: