Saturday, August 23, 2014

Should My Work Be Branded?

Hi. folks, this week is a response blog to Janet Lee Carey's post "I am not a brand."  For more on this topic, check out a manifesto statement from Maureen Johnson. 

This is another meandering post.  I felt fire and pain while writing this one. I will wander here some. I hope that something strikes a chord.

Branding is a human activity. We are inherently drawn to symbols. We slap them on everything from our faith to our hamburgers. A good brand offers a clear message. It also offers assurance you will receive a similar experience with branded products. A good brand will also stir up a targeted audience emotionally, will motivate a customer to place money on the counter, and will bring back customers again and again.

Here's a question I circle around. Should my work be branded?

On the surface, it seems to make sense. A book is a commodity. It's sold at the store with a publishing brand stamped on the book's spine. Beyond this, authors who offer readers similar fare time and time again usually find the most success. If the author writes one thriller, then writes ten more, that usually attracts a greater readership. The writer will have to tend that stream of content for a lifetime. Hey, this is a business, folks.

Branding helps writers stand out in the marketplace. So, authors, get in line. Learn the formulas. Refine your message and sell it! Be all bossy and pushy about that message. Hog every stage. What you have to say is the most important thing. To Market!

Sigh. Do you ever think you were born into the wrong world? The problem with "comodifiying" the story journey and branding imagination is this for me: We are all quicksilver. You can't really pin us down.  We shift and change on you. We are fickle. We are not who we were yesterday. We will not be the same tomorrow. If I go all branding on myself, instead of being who I am, I ditch who I am. Not okay.

For me storytelling is an ancient human art. This art circles around two questions: Who are we? What do we want?  These are the two things you own in this life. No degradation can put out the spark of you. Your hunger for what you want will cause you to risk everything. You may have to join a team who dared to have a dream and ended up martyred. But take to heart, they shaped the future.

Storytelling is too precious to mankind to force it into the branding mold. I'm with a little band of others that hop and holler, "Your heart, that's the holy ground! It sure is! Here is a lodestone for you." That said, we have no intention of sparing your feelings. We understand suffering has a purpose.We are immersed in the life-saving art of creating lodestones for the human heart, story maps that will help readers navigate through the rough seas of their lives.

A great book sets you on a journey toward your true north. It will turn you away from stupidity. It will rattle your cage. It will break your bonds. It will help you understand your days. It will help you find your best possible self. No question!

I hope you create something priceless. If you get some money for that, well, people need to eat. If you don't get money for it, well, people don't live on bread alone.


Here is a doodle for you.

and a quote for your pocket from the great poet Bob Dylan:

Come writers and critics who prophesy with your pen
And keep your eyes wide the chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon for the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who that it's namin'
For the loser now will be later to win.


Janet Lee Carey said...

Thanks for this post, Molly. Well said! It's an important conversation for writers to be having right now. Loved this, "creating lodestones for the human heart, story maps that will help readers navigate through the rough seas of their lives."

Swing that pen, Molly

Debra McKellan said...

I love that you say how we are always changing and can't be ourselves if we stick to a brand.

MollyMom103 said...

Hi, Janet, I'm going to always say write your story. There has to be room in world of books for original thought.I don't want to grab that dollar. I want to grab that heart. I want to be in the center of the heart ruckus.

MollyMom103 said...

Hi Debra! I'm glad my words resonated with you!

Janet Lee Carey said...

"Be in the center of the heart ruckus"
Man that's a Molly quote for sure!

Janet Lee Carey said...

And I agree Debra

Karrie Zylstra said...

I keep turning this over in my mind, Molly. Your post came on nearly the same day that I saw this by Liz Gilbert:

"We are often told in life that we need to know and understand ourselves, in order to be happy and healthy...which seems perfectly reasonable. But Adam Phillips introduces this other idea, which I think is both radical and intriguing. He says that one of the purposes and benefits of the therapeutic process is to learn how to UN-know yourself."

Branding smacks of the opposite of this 'un-knowing' Phillips is talking about. I imagine it would be harder for me to unknow things if I have a brand seared onto myself for the world to see.

What I love about writing is the way it brings out things I hadn't seen before - about the world and me. I'd hate to give that up for a marketing plan.

Thanks for the post and the good thinking it started for me.

MollyMom103 said...

Hi, Karrie! Thanks for sharing such deep thoughts. That quote by Liz Gilbert has a lot packed into it. I totally agree that un-knowing and branding aren't compatible ideas. But to be honest, I'm not sure I wholly understand what un-knowing is all about. If it means letting go of what you thought you were and then opening the door of all the possibilities, then I'm all for it.

For me, branding is something to do with sales. I'm sure of it. Writers slide into a neighborhood near philosophers, artists and dreamers. The oil in their heartland may be worth something to the folks out to make a buck, but processing the oil and pumping it out is not conductive to conservation of that land, just ruins it every time.

Karrie Zylstra said...

There was more to that quote, but I didn't want to make a mile long comment. I probably cut it too short. Yes, the 'un-knowing' is about letting go in order to find those new possibilities.

Digging for oil is a fabulous analogy. Thanks, again, Molly.