Monday, November 22, 2010

Dreaming about Branding... the Remix

Speeding Train', Ivo Pannaggi, Cassa di Risparmio, Macerata

So last night, I ended up dreaming about the conversation I've been writing about and having with people, this idea of "branding" ourselves as writers.

In my dream, we agreed that if we must be branded then *we* (the writers) should determine the word instead of brand.  The word we came up with?  Loco.  I'm assuming you all know this, but loco is Spanish for crazy, mad.

Yes, we decided that we would create our own loco as writers.  The loco called me.

And this morning I wondered if my subconscious brain came up with this because of the word: locomotive which in my dreamworld breaks down to "loco motive" (aka crazy motive).


Maybe this is where my head goes when I think about branding.  It's crazy because ultimately we are judged on *what* we write, not *who* we are.  The writing needs to come before the person.  We need to create our own language, our own rules, our own selves and not follow the lead of the corporate world when it comes to art, artistic endeavors, and/or the act of creating.

I do not want to suggest that I believe we should live in cardboard huts writing poems on the back of magnolia blossoms, but just not to be so open to allow others' vision for what we should be or how we should refer to it, to creep into our vocabulary.  I think as much as possible, we should try to stay out of the language of commerce as much as possible and into the language of creation.

And I think this is what I where I see branding a negative.

Many of you have talked about the positives of branding and what you want to be known for or how it's helped you focus your writing or market your work, but I think that is only just the very hem of branding, a few stitches, but not what I see this lower layer of branding to be.  I see branding in its very worst of taking away the authentic, not deepening it.

What the writers/poets who responded to my last post were talking about, felt different and more positive than that.  It felt like focusing.  It felt like they were creating opportunities for themselves.  I believe a writer/poet/artist *needs* to promote their work, it is part of the job as much as some of us can be uncomfortable with it, but that promotion, to me, is *not* branding.

Collin Kelley mentioned about being (or branding) himself as a social media consultant and again, to me this is not branding, but focusing.  He's found something he's good at and a place where he has knowledge to help others, but while having this expertise, he is also a poet, playwright, novelist, an editor.  He is multi-talented, but while I know Collin for all these things, I don't see him as someone who has branded himself (Collin, I do hope you know this is compliment from me.)  I think if he were to brand himself, he would limit himself.

Maybe I'm just focusing on the language we use (I am!) but I think it's important for us as artists not to get caught up in the outside world's attempt to make us become their marionettes where we create our world based on what they say is important.

And I know, I could be completely wrong on this.  I could be the poet in the cardboard box because I didn't jump on the branding train as it was heading out of town, but I guess I'm going to risk that.  My mind does not work that way.  My best decisions have always come from a gut level, from instinct.  

Michael Wells made an interesting comment about branding, "I doubt that you spent a weekend mind mapping what you wanted people to see you as and tailor making your every move as a writer to create that image."   This is correct and the idea of doing this hurts my head.  And I think this is what I hope writers and artists move away from, from creating your own image, but to spend energy on creating the type of art you love.  Create the image in your poem or painting, the images that overflow in your fiction, these are the images that are important.

Oh there are so many other trains we can jump on, so many locomotives to take. Ultimately, I think many of us want to end up at the same place-- to have our writing read and respected, to be an artist in the world and maybe, be known or remembered for what we created.

However you get there, whatever train you catch or even if walk, crawl or slow jog there, may your ride be smooth and beautiful.  This is what I wish for all of us.




  1. "In dreams begin responsibilities."

    As you have shown!

  2. I think your brain connected loco and logo...

    I am also an editor, and when I read marketing materials, I always have to be on the look out for consistent branding. For me, this reads as "consistency of voice/message."

    Luckily, we writers get to play within the confines of our own voices. But I do like thinking of my "brand" as encompassing everything I produce (not products to be sold, necessarily, but the unifying principle would be that they were manufactured in my brain).

  3. I do take it as a compliment. :) Like I said, I don't like the word branding, but I often use it because that's the nomenclature of the time. What I tell everyone, especially when I'm talking to other writers, is use all the tools available to get your work to others. If that's branding, I'm okay with it.


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