Your Brand is its Own, Autonomous Story
Creating a brand is weird as hell, especially for personal projects. Making an image for yourself to place into the world, representing your writing, photography, paintings, electronic haikus, whatever the art may be, is a story within the story of your creativity.
You pour yourself into your art, have your own reaction to your work, then you have your offering to the public eye, the voice you carry as you do that, your reaction to an audience's reaction, and the journey to find the best way to continue that interaction. All of this is so you can create publicly, and the hope, at some point, to receive payment for that work, makes it an even more complex tale.
This is simply you being you. You the creator. Why the hell is it so complicated?
The Initial Steps
I've been writing publicly for a year. Hopefully, there are years more to come. Even more hopefully, with some kind of money earned in the process. I've had to dip into learning about marketing because it's just smart if you want to promote yourself in any way. I've seen the articles and other articles and even more articles about how storytelling itself is the key to making a brand. Your brand is a story. My title for this article isn't some new revelation. But to actually experience this process happening was something far stranger than I would have thought.
This all started because I want to write books. I wanted a platform to showcase my writing, and maybe, throw some articles in here and there. I only had a couple of short stories that I was happy enough with to place in a public space, and I had no idea what I wanted from my blog. Something, something, writing, something, maybe some storytelling stuff? Not the strongest mission statement on the planet, to be sure.
I did some research, ended up subscribing to Squarespace and started my first website. I realized how much I loved designing it and the beginning of my brand started from the design choices I was making. All just to be a house for my stories. At the end of the day did it matter what that house looked like? I soon realized that absolutely it did. The more professional the house, the more seriously I was taken. Style depends on who you are, but whatever that style is, it should feel designed and curated.
Brand Forms Along the Way
Once that was complete, the most significant influencer on my brand was something simple. Just writing. The more I wrote articles, fleshed out short stories, and edited my book, the more I understood my own process. It's a strange thing, but part of starting your brand is realizing who you are. It's like those impulsive trips to Europe to discover yourself, just in writing form. (Which costs a lot less, by the way.)
I wrote more and more articles, focused on storytelling, tried to sound like I knew what I was talking about, and was even a top writer on Medium for a little while. That's when made a horrible realization. After months and months of writing, the voice in the articles wasn't my own. How could this possibly have happened?
It was the result of trying to sound a certain way. This was especially true in my articles that were pure examinations of how to tell better stories. This doesn't mean I hate them, or they have no value. They are useful examinations about different aspects of constructing character, theme, and action in a story, but it didn't sound like me.
I believe it's a good idea to be influenced by other writers' style and tone, but ultimately that is all on the journey to find your voice. Your voice is completely and wonderfully your own, and it's a long road that really never ends. You will always be crafting it as a writer.
The way I discovered that my voice was going off in some weird direction, was when I began writing more and more for The Brothers Geek. My brother and I run a geeky podcast together and wanted to get more content out. What do I like to do? Write. So it was natural coming up with some ideas for articles for this other part of my creativity. I found that it was incredibly fun writing those articles and they are about as formal as a Saturday where you convince yourself you will get to the laundry at some point, but end up wearing a robe you didn't even realize you owned for the rest of the day.
The point is, the contrast between my storytelling articles and my geeky articles was somewhat striking. So which is the real me? Maybe neither. It was somewhere in the middle. Some beautiful mix of geekiness and insightfulness.
Here's an article from earlier in this adventure of finding my voice, so you can see what I mean:
It has it's strong and weak points and tells something true about the writing process. Ironically, it's about finding a real voice for yourself, but it gives some good advice. It's something I'm still proud of. Yet, it feels a bit rigid, like I'm unwilling to be myself and everyone can tell.
Now here's one of my most recent articles:
It still dives into aspects of storytelling and allows a reader to, hopefully, gain some insight on how to craft better characters for their own stories. But here, I crack more jokes, reference other, not as lofty sources. I mean, I get a Bob's Burgers reference into my article about Jaws while pointing out how Brody is a well-crafted character. Now that's my voice!
When you find something that you write, draw, sing, capture, and it's your true voice, that's exciting. You will know it when you see it, and you definitely need to throw yourself a little party. You have taken your first step into a larger world. See! Ben Kenobi reference there! Oh hi, voice!
Allow Room for Change
When the time came to renew my Squarespace subscription I knew it was the perfect moment to make some changes. My writing had fallen way behind schedule, I felt torn in two different tonal directions, and it was time to make the brand something bigger than just my writing.
My brother is an artist, a creator, and arguably even geekier than me. A debate for the ages perhaps. More importantly, we are close. So much so that we invented our own language using only Mystery Science Theater quotes to convey complex conversation. Combining his brand and my own was the foundation for finding something real. A brand that felt like my own. Our own. We have always taken on adventures together, so why should our creative ones be any different? This was a voice that was something entirely me. A forum for both my brother and I to explore our creativity in a way that feels personal and true to who we are.
I had no idea that my brand would look like this at any point. I have only assumptions, hopes, and this foundation to guide me into the future of this brand. It's a process. Your brand will grow, change, take its own shape, and you need to give it the ability to be flexible. That means you have to pay attention with every piece of creativity you place out into the world. Is it you? Ask yourself: is this who I am? What can I change? What did I change too much? It's about focusing, experimenting, and re-focusing.
And have fun with the journey, my God.