I’ve been thinking about authenticity a lot lately. During one of my yoga practices, my teacher said something that has stuck with me.
My teacher said she puts herself in situations where she can be authentic. I wondered what she meant by that, and I thought about my books and all of my creative pursuits. It made me think about money, too. In essence, it made me think about my life and self-actualization.
Our jobs take up so much of our life. For that reason, I hope we can all find jobs that we like and believe in. But it’s difficult. We could absolutely love a job, but maybe it doesn’t pay the bills, then what? We need money to survive, and most of us have dreams for various levels of comfort beyond that. Every individual will have to find what works for them, and I’m still trying to find what works for me
In my ideal world, my books will sustain me. I don’t have to be some crazy rich billionaire to be happy, but I do need a certain amount of money in order to live without too much stress. That means I also need a certain amount of stability. Yes, I could (or should be able to) achieve this with a number of different jobs, but I’m relentlessly pursuing writing.
I picked writing because it’s creating. I have a need to create, and I always have. Because I love writing to an obsessive degree and just can’t imagine living without it. Because I proved to myself I can write quickly enough to make it a real job possibility. Because last year, my first real year doing whatever I could to turn writing books into a business, was a good year.
It was also the first year I made some compromises.
Now, I promised myself I’d never write a story I didn’t believe in. That would be a bad time for me. I believe it would be a bad time for readers too. However, everything I learned about writing and my eclectic taste in stories led me to some hard truths. Realities.
Certain genres sell better than others. Some story themes are better received. There are majority preferences, but there are also minority preferences and niches. Finding a profitable niche is hard. Many I love are just too small to be able to make enough money to live off of. So, I did my research and found a genre that works for me and is something a good number of people like to read.
I tried doing it under a pen name. It was okay, except I was constantly stressed and felt like I was dying. The pen name made this part of my journey feel so impersonal somehow. I wrote books I was proud of, but no one could know I had written them because I had written a different genre previously? You have to write different genres under a bunch of different names because people don’t want to crossover?
It didn’t sit well with me. I got rid of the pen name and merged everything under one name. My name. It felt like a step toward authenticity. No matter the genre, I’m still me, and if people like my heart, the might want to read my books regardless of the genre. (I talk about that transition a bit more in this post.)
But, somehow, I still wasn’t satisfied.
What’s missing? Haven’t I been striving to be as authentic as possible while staying within certain boundaries?
Does that even work or does staying within boundaries conflict with being authentic?
Well, the answer came with my latest series, The Holiday Shifter Mates. I took some risks with that series, things that made it closer to my heart rather than sticking to genre conventions. I stayed true to the world The Holiday Shifter Mates takes place in, Trinity. It’s a steamy paranormal shifter romance series just like Marked by the Moon, but the last book especially, Valentine’s Day Tigers, has characters I much more closely relate to. But the majority of people don’t. This isn’t just from a book standpoint, this is from everyday life.
There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with being in a minority. It can be hard and lonely, definitely, but we are who we are, and we need accept that even when other people don’t. Especially when other people don’t. You are valid and worthy. But addressing these kinds of things puts these books in a very small and specific niche, as you might imagine. The holiday theme of my series itself was already specific enough. I went too far off the rails with this series–from a marketing/money making perspective.
However, I don’t regret my decision. I’m proud of those books and felt they were important or I wouldn’t have published them, but they’ve forced me to look again at what my goals are for writing. If my goal for writing is to do it as a job, I can’t go off and write whatever I want. If I want to write for myself and maybe a handful of people like me, then I can do just that.
So, authenticity. Am I being authentic if I’m kicking certain stories to the curb because they won’t sell, even when they’re stories I truly believe in?
No. I don’t think that’s true. I’ve done my best to be authentic since back when I told myself I would never write a story I didn’t believe in. Maybe it’s not a story I relate to the way I do other books I’ve written, books that don’t sell well, but that doesn’t make it any less authentic.
The heart is the same.
The heart is what matters above all else. It’s the thing we all share as the writer and the reader. It’s the thing I’m putting out into the universe, and the thing that connects us all. Yes, I need to make money to survive, but I want to make people happy. I want to write good stories people can really sink their teeth into. I also want to write stories as proof none of us are alone, no matter where we come from. No matter who we are. We can all relate on some level. Love is for everyone. It isn’t withheld from minorities and given to the majority or vice versa. It’s for everyone.
That’s my answer. That’s being authentic. And, if a story really calls to me but it likely won’t sell, I can always take personal time to write it. It’s the same as if I had a day job that wasn’t writing. It all just depends on how badly I want it, how important I think it is to share.
Fight for your dreams, but don’t compromise your heart.