Friday, November 19, 2010

You are not a Brand...

So I've been googling author websites this week as I'm trying to redo my website so it doesn't look as if it was created by a six-year-old and I've been finding this disturbing trend I want to discuss--  Branding.

Not cattle or clothes, but people.

Here's something I read that annoyed me:

I was reminded again how many authors think that by just hanging a website in cyberspace they are somehow building their brand. As it turns out, not so much.

This idea that we (authors/writers/artists) are a "brand" is really disturbing.  I had heard about this "create your brand" and "you must have a platform" at a few writers conferences I've been at, but I thought it was something trendy.  It seems it's not.

There's tons of websites dedicated to helping you "build your platform" and I am going to tell you this quite honestly, unless you are in a bathing suit and jumping off this so-called platform into a pool, then I don't want to hear about it.

I kind of kills my spirit to hear writers talked about as if we were corporations with logos and mottos and theme-songs.  

I am not going to go into a grocery store and find your sweeping name across some sugary cereal.  I am not going to recognize you for your commercial jingle.  

I feel this "branding" idea is limiting.  It feels as if it's another way for people who don't really write to sell things to writers:  Be Your Own Best Brand!  How to Create Your Brand for only $295.  Build Your Brand BEFORE the Book!

Are you an artist or a commodity, my poet's heart asks.

I guess there is a part of me that knows many of us became writers because we could not *not* write, not because we thought of ourselves as a product.  Maybe this branding is for those who became writers for the big bucks.  

But it's not the money thang or the success thang I'm arguing here, don't get me wrong.  I don't believe being a writer should equal a life of poverty.  I want all of you to sell many many books. I want poets and writers and artists to have so much money they have no idea how to spend it all.  I want all your pockets filled with success and spending money.  I believe it's part of the job to promote your book, share your art, be part of the conversation, the community.  But I don't think it has to be done by limiting yourself or creating yourself as a so-called brand.

Maybe this branding feels like selling something else. 

I'm not sure, but I think focusing on branding dilutes the passion for the writing and puts the emphasis on being a "Writer" (capital W).  

And it feels that this "branding" and "platform" language was made *for* us, not *by* us.  And I take issue with that.  It's hard enough to be a writer without someone trying to tell you to figure out exactly who you are before you begin.  I mean, that is the beauty of art and writing-- DISCOVERY.

I don't think I should have to brand myself. I don't think you should have to either.

So if you've come here for the lecture, here's my final thoughts--

Forget your brand.  You can write sci-fi and poetry.  Fiction and romance novels.  You do not need to limit yourself because it doesn't fit with your brand or because you were told you are an expert on bananas from South America, you can still be an expert on doughnuts in Cleveland.  Or sex.  Or bathmats.

When I hear sentences like this one (one that almost makes me weep), Brand-building is constant. It should always be in the back of your mind, what I want to say in response is:

Writing is constant and should always be in the back of your mind.

Or replace "writing" with "art" or "art" with "creating," but don't use brand.  
Anything but brand.  

I can't let myself be put in that box.  I am not a Twinkie.  You are not a Ding-Dong (okay, you could be a ding-dong, but I don't know that for sure).  But you are definitely not a Twinkie, that I know.  

So there I said it, I'm against this idea of branding oneself.  I don't like it.  I'm pretty sure it's for livestock and not writers.  

When it comes to writing and art, your name tag should not read, "Hello, I'm Whomever You Want Me To Be."  Ever.  It should read, "Hi, I'm me,"  a complex person with complex thoughts and ideas. Overflowing. Various and Diverse.   

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