Summer Voices | Jennifer Louden | Swap True For Original

I'm on vacation this week and have invited some friends to share their voice here during my time away. Say hello to Jennifer Louden (photo above © Pati McDougall):

There are many reasons why it’s hard to find your creative voice – exhaustion, lack of time and self-doubt for starters – but the reason I want to dismiss today, once and for all, is the desire to be original.

Dear creative heart, please hear me: Original is a mirage. It’s a boondoggle, a red herring, a lie. It's one of the critic's insidious ways to turn you to stone. The critic hisses, "But your work looks just like _______. Why can't you be more original? Maybe this creative thing is just not for you."

Instead, consider what author C.S. Lewis’ said, “Even in literature and art, no man [sic] who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

Do this: Swap true for original.

Your creative voice takes shape each time you trust and express your truth in your work. Each time you move toward what feels true, grounded, real, honest for you in the moment of creating.

That’s your job as a creative. Express truth.

You already know how to do this; it’s why you choose one angle over another or dinker with a phrase until it “feels” right.

You are searching for true. This is holy work.

Here’s some pointing out instructions that might help:

  • Slow down. True takes time. It’s hard to slow down. And it’s worth it.

  • Be in relationship with your tools, your subject, your body as you create. Be listening to it all (yes that sounds woo-woo because it is).

  • Avoid equating finding your voice with your work getting better. Product is not the point. The point is to be fully alive and fully yourself. Serving aliveness brings better work, but only sometimes, and only if that’s not your goal.

  • Copy consciously. Hemingway copied out other writer’s sentences to learn.

  • First and foremost, be an artist of self-compassion. The reason why so many people are afraid to create is they know how hard it is. You will spend a lot of time being frustrated. Don’t add beating yourself up. If you do, you will lose the connection to your voice.

  • Relax, take deep breaths, let your jaw be loose.  A tense body makes a lot of noise.

  • Follow impulses, inklings, winks. What turns you on? What scares you? What makes you curious? Go there within the act of creating.

  • When you do need to know something specific, like how to apply a certain filter or how to create suspense, go learn that and then get back to your own process.

  • Get used to living in the "gap" between what you want to create and what actually comes out. This gap is where artists live. Learn to love it.

Okay, your turn.

Go create a little something. Keep the phrase “Swap true for original” in your heart. Then come back and report what happened. I’ll give away one copy of my book The Life Organizer and one copy of The Woman’s Retreat book. You have one week before the comments will be closed and a random winner chosen.

ABOUT JEN LOUDEN | Jen Louden has written six books on women’s well-being with almost a million copies in print. Pick up her Accelerator Focus Kit for free here.

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