I want to talk about personal branding today because it’s something that’s really held me up these last few years and I think (hope) I’ve finally developed a healthy perspective on it that may help anyone in this personal creative writing space. Here’s my main thought…
I think the way most people (including me) obsess over creating a consistent brand is a creative trap.
Okay, first, I’ll be clear. If you’re at the level of Nike or Lululemon, you can afford to hire/outsource a think tank full of brand-imagineers to storyboard your shizz out and lock in an overarching consistent brand across all media and product lines.
But if you’re an indy personal writer like me, all this talk about ‘brand image’, and finding a ‘niche’ can be daunting.
This has been a real hangup for me and I’m no spring chicken in the personal creative blogging space. I’ve long followed these copywriters and content marketing/branding gurus who’ve pedaled the notion that we all need to have a consistent brand and dig deeper and deeper into a niche so as to mine it for all it’s worth.
Now, this is great if you’re writing SEO content for your international lawnmower gasket company — you can niche away there.
But if you’re like me and you’re someone who writes things of a personal nature, the problem (which is no longer a problem — I’ll get to that part soon) is that you’re definitely a living and breathing hyphen. I say ‘definitely’ because, as humans, it’s pure truth.
Maybe some of us have more hyphens than others, but we are hyphens, nonetheless. Just thinking about defining, once-and-for-all, my niche makes me perspire more than I currently should be perspiring (even writing this now has the inside of my forehead heating up).
But, because I’ve taken to heart what the brand gurus have told me throughout the years, every time the inner tide of my personal interests have shifted (from creativity to secular spirituality to personal stories to progressive theology to poetry to…) and I’ve decided to switch my subject matter, I’ve had all but nervous breakdowns each time. And every time I’ve gone back to one of my previously entertained passions, it’s gotten even worse! My internal dialogue has gone something like this…
Ohdeargod, I’m wanting to write more about theology now rather than creativity — I need to rebrand and pivot and make an apologetic announcement to my subscribers about the change and aaaagggghhh!!…
Ugh… No… It’s too much. It stresses everyone out and it’s not worth it.
The thing about being a personal creative writer is that people really only care about the main subject that’s at the root of all of your different topics — YOU.
My readers have told me this time and time again and I’ve heard it, but I haven’t LISTENED. I’ve experienced so much wasted time and stress and creative blocking from this obsession on consistent branding.
Here’s my suggestion…
If you’re of the focused personality that you can write about one thing ad-infinitum, kudos to you. You have way more patience than I do. Please, brand away and stick to it forever. I’m seriously impressed.
But if you identify with what I’m saying or if you’re just starting your own venture into personal creative writing, beware the trap of branding yourself into a paralyzed frenzy — especially before you even start.
Author Neil Strauss says it perfectly here in this Insta-Twitter-quote thingy I’ve had saved on my phone for awhile…
If you’re in this camp, stop worrying about your ‘niche’ or your ‘brand’. That’ll come as a result of the work you do in sharing of yourself completely (within reason). So share what brings you verve and joy and anger and frustration and awe. Every. Damn. Thing.
Sure, the readers who are in it strictly for the outer thing you’re writing about will leave when you switch. But that’s good — in fact, it’s great! Because as a personal creative writer, you want readers who want you. They know you’ll circle back around to their preferred specific topic and as long as your heart is into what you write, they’ll likely stick with you through the stuff they might not dig so much because it’s still… you!
Want to write a piece about baking bread followed up by a poem about the sex you had last night and ending the day with a children’s nursery rhyme? Amazing.
Let US — your readers — put the brand on you. Trust me, we will. We’ll categorize you, slap a label on your face, and store you away somewhere special inside. But the labels we put on you shouldn’t be any of your concern. Keep us guessing. As frustrating as it seems, it’s what keeps us on our toes. And it makes us feel better and not so alone in our own existential hyphenated condition as fellow humans.
Until you can hire that team of brand imagineers. And by then, you won’t have to worry about it. You’ll be kicking it in your Lululemons and laughing all the way to the farmer’s market.
P.S. One of the great things about writing on Medium is that you can create different publications for each broad topic that you enjoy dipping your pen into:)
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