Independent writers these days, we are told, must create, nurture and sell our “brand.”
If only I had one.
Great piece on that issue — I can’t link to it, sorry! — in this month’s GQ, by Shalom Auslander: funny, moving, bitter, thoughtful. He finds the whole idea of becoming a brand, as do I, freaking nuts — sorry, risible; (if my brand is smart-girl, I had best select thoughtful, erudite diction.)
I understand, and get, style, voice, consistency. Monet and Manet look as different from one another, equally gorgeous and immediately identifiable to my eye, as Jenny Holzer and Damien Hirst. The Eagles aren’t Arcade Fire. Rachael Ray isn’t Julia Child.
But branding one’s writing? That’s a tough one, as every plagiarist apologizing these days, and it’s almost daily, points out. You can be rilly pretentious and write in so florid and bizarre a way that it’s your brand — but who wants to read it?
The idea of a personal brand is also deeply abhorrent to anyone who believes in complexity and in modesty. Any intelligent writer knows that stringing words together is damned difficult to do well, in the best way, which is in a way so deeply unbranded, so unobtrusive your readers slide seamlessly into it without ooohing and aaahing at its “watchwatchme-ness” as they read.
Great writing never tells you it’s great. It just takes your damn breath away.
An intelligent writer, in my view, does not pretend to compare themselves, nor wishes to, to a can of sugary beverage or a gleaming new SUV. Reduced, say, to three tidy adjectives. (Or is this a good thing? Is complexity over-rated?)
A brand is known by its easily-defined characteristics, wherein lies the problem.
I’ve always been, and hope to be for a few more decades, a mix of silly, deeply serious, compassionate, brutally practical, geeky, adventurous, curious, technophobic — but attached to my new Itouch. I read by candle-light, am passionate about using objects that pre-date the 19th. century but thrill to the smell of jet fuel, my heart beating faster at the exquisite design of an Embraer jet wing.
Born in June, I’m a Gemini, the twins’ sign, so I’m allowed, astrologically speaking, to be two people. That’s on a slow day…
A brand is consistent. I am consistently — not.
Who’s that simple? Who wants to be?