How to Write Authentically

How to write authentically, the poetry salon, Tresha Haefner

“Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.”

― W.H. Auden

What does it mean to be authentic?

Many people worry it requires them to be more interesting than the person next to them. They need to stand out more by wearing brighter clothes, buying a Chinchilla, moving to Madagascar, and dying their hair blue.
How to write authentically, the poetry salon, Tresha Haefner
But the truth is, being authentic in writing is much easier than people realize. Mainly it requires not so much being flashy, as just being honest, and being a little more aware.


Open your eyes a little wider, look a little closer, and tell the truth in a little more detail. This helps writers express who they really are. Not doing so leads us down the path to cliches, generalities, and, well, hiding behind the superficial, not just in poetry, but in life as well.

Here’s an example from real life. When I was a young person and all of my girlfriends started pairing off with boyfriends I would ask, “Why do you like him?” I would usually get the same response, “He’s smart, funny, and good looking.” Then my friend would go out with him for a while, meet somebody new, dump the old boyfriend and swear an undying love to the new one who also turned out to be smart, funny, and good looking. “What was wrong with the last one?” I would inquire, and she’d reel off the litany, “He smelled like boiled carrots, didn’t return my calls on time, looked at other girls when we were on dates…” so on, so on. “So how is this next one different?” I’d ask. Usually my friend would give me a blank stare. Needless to say, I didn’t get invited to double-date with her very often.
When people skate on the surface of language, and they stay on the surface of their understanding about themselves, other people, and the world around them. They get lost and even blinded by generalities that mask substance and truth.
One of the main things that the practice of writing poetry can do is help us look more deeply at an object, a person, a place, a love-interest and ourselves to find what is authentic, specific, and unique.


For example, I would never describe my husband in terms like funny, smart, and good looking. I’d probably tell you he’s got a dark sense of humor, knows more about politics than I do, and has a great head of hair. That is a very different kind of “smart, funny and good-looking” than a man who tells dad jokes, is a college physics professor and looks like Boy George. There is a truism that says “simple but not easy.”
The first step in writing more authentically is not necessarily about being cleverer, or showing off more. It is about probing just an inch or two deeper. Becoming one degree more aware of your surroundings, like a monk or a painter.


Taking a minute to say more precisely what you mean. The way you look at the world, when you do this, will be different for everyone. What you notice will be different, how you describe it, how you react to it, will start to reveal your authentic voice.


Writing may be solitary, but being a writer means making friends with other artists, learning from one another, and trading tips, recommendations and skills.


If you want to learn how to write authentically sign up below for our Free 3-part ecourse, How to Write Authentically.
  • In this short course I’ll share with you 3 different poems and show you how each of their authors took a cliche subject and used it to find their own, authentic attitude and voice.
  • I’ll also share with you 3 exercises that will help you start writing, keep writing, and transform your writing to be authentic.
  • You can sign up for this free e-course using the form below. If you want to ask me any questions, or even share with me what you wrote, email me at

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