Bragging Rights

Every now and then I’ll branch out and attend a writer’s conference. My reasons for doing so usually stem from a bout of writers block or shear frustration at my own inability to move forward within the industry, so I throw my hands in the air and venture out to see what others are doing to carve out their own success. I become disenchanted with my own abilities and stupidly start to think that the only way to succeed is to emulate, instead of innovate.

Whenever I do show up to an event I have a blast. I meet a bunch of great people, listen to a range of interesting talks, and find a renewed love for what I do. But no matter how much I enjoy myself I never walk away from an event with that piece of elusive information that will see my writing and carer soar to new heights.  Why?

Because it doesn’t exist. The whole concept of emulating what has worked for someone else and expecting it to yield similar results is flawed. We are all unique and we all approach similar goals and aspirations with our own set of circumstances that impact upon the inevitable outcomes of those dreams. It’s great to listen to someone talk about their pillars of success or foolproof methods of being successful, and many of us are able to draw great inspiration from this. But the truth is that there is no one who can tell you how to be successful, because there is no one who has lived through the same circumstances or developed the same idiosyncrasies as you.

You can draw influence from the successes of others, but if you truly want to achieve you have to create your own path. You have to wake up every single day with a hunger to achieve and be willing to bust your arse to make it happen. We live in a society drowning underneath a never ending sea of instant success stories or celebrities that are born out of a minute amount of talent and damn good timing. But rather than recognise that many modern day successes are born out of unique opportunity and circumstance, we start to criticise ourselves for having to fight tooth and nail for what we want.

We misconstrue the concept of celebrity with success and convince ourselves that the only measure of our accomplishments is our notoriety. If I’m not famous I mustn’t be producing works that are good enough right? Wrong. Some of the most stirring pieces I’ve ever read, watched, listened to or viewed have come from artists virtually unknown amongst their peers. They are men and women who have carved out niches in their chosen fields and although they aren’t instantly recognisable or celebrated within their fields, they are consistently redefining what it means to create wonderful art.

Excellence comes not from the praise of others, but from a continuous honing of one’s talents. Words of affirmation and celebrity within one’s chosen field is nice, however real satisfaction and success comes from knowing that you have created something beautiful and lent a piece of your soul to a work that will live on forever.

Bragging rights don’t equate to shit if you’ve won the praise of your peers for producing second rate work that belies your true potential. We all have the ability to excel at whatever we decide to. But we have to want that excellence with every ounce of our strength.  We have to consistently redevelop and redefine our craft and who we are over and over again until we become who we are born to be. You want to write? Write. You want to make music? Learn to play an instrument. You want to be a ball player? You better lace up those kicks and hit the court.

The very best of us earn our keep and blaze a trail of success that is uniquely ours. We don’t rely on the pseudo-helpful never fail theories of others, and we certainly don’t wait for pure chance to pluck us out of obscurity and hand us our dreams on a silver platter. We reach, we fall, and when we are knocked down we get back up and tell life that it hits like a bitch. This persistence and determination; this unending love for our crafts and passions is what forces us to aspire, create and ultimately achieve.

Bragging rights are earned through grit and determination. Success is achieved through hard work. You can become a legend in your own right; it just takes a lot of hard work.

Three Faces

Back in 2011 I won the Heading North Young Writers Competition and a place on panel of up and coming writers at the Byron Bay Writers Festival. At the time it was a pretty big achievement for me. I was twenty three years old and struggling to find my way in this world. I was living away from my family and partner so that I could try to pursue my writing dreams. I was broke, fragile and alone. But somehow a panel of judges managed to see through the muddled tale of woe I’d written and gave me an opportunity to shine. I was thrilled with the opportunity and told myself that this was my big break; that I was ready to take on the literary world…

…It was a definitely a break. Unfortunately it would be one that I’d fail to fully embrace before slipping into a harrowing low that saw me abandon writing altogether for a number a months. It was case of opportunity and talent colliding with sadness and sorrow. Unfortunately for me sadness and sorrow won.

So there I was sitting before an impressively large audience who had turned out to see me and two other writers interviewed on stage in a showcase to highlight the next big things in the local scene. I was trying my hardest to seem accomplished in my craft, but I couldn’t help but wonder just how the fuck I’d managed to win when an audience member asked if I had ever thought about starting a blog. Until that point I had never once considered running my own site, and promptly responded that I hadn’t because a blog was a very personal thing and I wasn’t prepared to expose myself like that. In hindsight the response was idiotic. You could see as much on the faces of those in the audience. I had this crazy idea that my writing life could be kept separate from my private life; when in reality the two were so intertwined that if I wanted to truly succeed as a writer I would need to learn to embrace both.

Why am I telling you this? Well, to make a long story short, I screwed up. I missed opportunities and thought that I could create success with nothing more than arrogance and a sliver of talent. It would take another four years before I’d actually see my debut novel put into print; and it would take a broken mind, bloody knuckles, and eventually acceptance of self before I could even begin to achieve. I’m only just beginning to make up for lost time and make a name for myself as a writer. And while many of my friends, family and followers believe that I have achieved a great deal as of late, the truth is that I have been busting my arse for nearly a decade just to get here. I have invested a great deal of time to my craft, and will continue to do so for years to come.

But I’ll let you in on a secret: the reason that I have managed to gain so much momentum as of late is because I finally figured out how to be a great writer. It turns out that it’s actually quite simple…

…You have to be naked.

Peel back the layers of your outer self and expose the vulnerability within. Remove your inhibitions, cut out your insecurities, be naked and set yourself free.

There’s an ancient Japanese proverb that says you have three faces. The first face, you show to the world. The second face, you show to your close friends and family. The third face, you never show anyone. It is the truest reflection of who you are. For the general public this adage holds true. We put on a façade and move through life leading the world to believe what we want it to. Then we choose to let a few select friends and family members inside our circles of trust and allow them see our second face. The face that we reserve for those that we trust contains blemishes and insecurities, but as we grow comfortable with our loved ones we afford them the opportunity to glimpse the minor fragilities of this intricate canvas of ourselves. But it’s the third face, the one that we shield from the world that we really need to embrace if we are to be truly free.

It’s this face that you need to be prepared to show the world if you want to succeed as a great writer. This face is completely naked, vulnerable, and utterly beautiful. But for some bizarre reason it’s one that so many of us are afraid to reveal. It was this face that I was so afraid of exposing to the world when I said that blogging was too personal and that I wanted to differentiate my private life from my public one. It was this face that I would ultimately learn to be proud of and use to start finding momentum in my quest to create a career out of my passions.

So why are we so afraid to be vulnerable? Is it that we are scared of the judgement of our peers? Or is it that we are simply afraid to be free? We are so used to concealing the purest incarnations of our nature and desires that allowing ourselves the opportunity to be liberated from the faces we create to satisfy strangers appears daring and dangerous. But it is this art of removal, this art of extreme vulnerability that allows a writer, artist, man or woman to transcend beyond their inhibitions and be beautiful.  Look at any successful man or woman within the creative industries and every single one of them has one thing in common: they’re comfortable in their vulnerability. They can stand naked before the world and accept their imperfections as well as embrace their strengths.

So here I am standing before you, vulnerable and exposed in my nakedness. This blog allows me to remove the two faces that I have created for my family, friends and peers and be uncovered for all to see. You can see my strengths and flaws, and through embracing them I have become a far better writer than I ever dreamed possible. I’m naked, I’m vulnerable and I’m free. And you can be too. All you have to do is free your mind, remove your inhibitions and allow the world to experience the beauty of your soul stripped bare.

Be naked. Be beautiful. And be you. And if you do decide to open your soul for the world to see make sure you let me know. I’d love to meet the truest reflection of you.

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