Building narratives: Self-creation is key to attaining greatness

Factoring in the stereotypes that existed at the time, Amantine decided that if she had to play a role, it would have to be that of a man.

A STORY is told of a young French woman who reportedly left her husband and family in a remote village and went to settle in Paris. She wanted to be a writer and she felt marriage was worse than prison as it deprived her of the freedom to pursue her passion. In Paris, she was determined to establish her independence and make a living through writing.

As soon as she landed in Paris, she had to confront some harsh realities. To have any room of freedom that she yearned for in the capital, she needed to have money. Sadly, for a woman at the time, money could only come through marriage or prostitution, no woman had ever come close to making a living by writing. At the time, women wrote as a hobby, supported by their husbands, or by inheritance. When she first showed her writings to an editor, he told her,” You should make babies, Madame, not literature”.

For this young woman, these unfolding realities seemed like warning signs that she had come to the Paris to attempt the impossible and under normal circumstances these discouraging remarks would have sent her back to rejoin her family in the village and forget about pursuing her calling and her purpose. In the end, she came up with a strategy to do what no one had ever done, to recreate and reinvent herself completely, forging a public image of her own making. Women writers before her had been forced into ready-made roles, those of second-class citizens and second-rate artists who wrote for other women. Fast forward to today, Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin (George Sand) is recognized and remembered as one of the most notable writers of the European romantic era. At the time of her death in 1876, she had more than 50 volumes of work to her credit, including tales, plays, and political text alongside 70 novels, and had been one of the most popular writers in Europe.

How did Amantine break barriers and become a force to reckon in a largely patriarchal arts space during her time?

How did she find her voice to pursue her calling, purpose and passion in light of all these obstacles?

  • Recreating/Re-inventing herself.

Factoring in the stereotypes that existed at the time, Amantine decided that if she had to play a role, it would have to be that of a man. It was in 1832 that a publisher was to accept her first major novel which she had chosen to publish under a pseudo name “George Sand” and all of Paris assumed that this impressive ‘new writer’ was male. Before that, she had sometimes worn male clothes before creating the fictitious “George Sand” and as a public figure, she had exaggerated the dressing of the fictitious character and now added long men’s coats, gray hats, heavy boots, and dandyish cravats to her wardrobe. She smoked cigars and in conversations expressed herself like a man, unafraid to dominate the conversations or to use saucy words. While she had her own “extreme ways” of re-inventing herself it’s important to find unique ways of recreating or re-inventing ourselves if we are to chase after our callings and purpose and live a permanent on this earth.

  • Winning the public

This strange male/female writer fascinated the public. Unlike other women writers, she found herself accepted into the clique of male artists. Those who knew her well understood that her male persona protected her from the prying public eyes. Out in the world, she enjoyed playing the part to the extreme, privately she remained herself. She also realized that the character of George Sand could grow stale or predictable, and to avoid this she would every now and then dramatically alter the character she had created.

  • Key Takeaways

In the context of art, the movies we watch or books we read, there are many times we hate or like characters based on the narrative perceptions or perspectives we see on the screen or read in text. Many times, we have seen people being restricted from individually expressing themselves because of how society has pre-defined certain roles. I have admired tales of lawyers who have gone on to be radio DJ’s because it is what they loved to do,tales of artist and sportsman who ended up in leadership positions and politics, and tales of women who have taken over previously male-dominated spaces. In fact, the most beautiful and captivating narratives are of people who got in their specific niches, calling, or areas of purpose seemingly by accident or re-invention rather than planning. The key lesson from George Sand’s story is that the idea of self-creation or re-invention comes from the world of art. Many times, the world enforces barricades to stop us from airing out our voices, vouching for our beliefs, maximizing our potential, and dreaming big. Art remains an important technique that enables us to consider how to recreate ourselves, our passions, and our purpose.Whenever brands, companies, or individuals go to annual/quarterly planning or goal-setting retreats, the facilitators of these retreats mostly use artistic techniques to challenge their audience or trainees to aim to eliminate self-limiting beliefs and dream big, either at an individual or organizational level.

Throughout Sand’s public life, acquaintances and other artists who spent time in her company had the feeling that they were in the presence of a man. In her journals, and to her closest friends, she confessed that she had no desire to be a man but was playing the part for public consumption. What she wanted was the ability to take charge of her narrative and refuse to be limited by societal pre-conceived roles. She created a persona or pseudo character that she could constantly adapt to her desires, a persona that attracted attention and gave her presence. In the end, she turned lemon into lemonade and landed her name in the history books of arts and literature gurus long after her demise.

  • Fungayi Antony Sox is a seasoned communications and publishing specialist who has advised and consulted for CEOs, executives, entrepreneurs, youth-focused start-ups, businesses, several institutions, and organizations. For feedback contact him on 0776 030 949, connect with him on LinkedIn on Fungayi Antony Sox, or write to him on [email protected].




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