To Brand or Not To Brand.
By Briana Hansen
That is no longer the question.
I get it. You’re a writer. You love to sit behind the screen and craft creative worlds filled with the most innovative and imaginative storylines the world has ever seen. You want to work on rewrites and make sure those worlds are as strong and appealing as they can be to the people who might be able to make them a reality. You want to be handed a challenge and use your prowess of the written word to slay that challenge like the modern-day wordsmith hero you are.
You don’t want to sell yourself. You don’t want to go in front of people and talk about how great you are. You just want to create your worlds, spend your time behind the computer screen, or just stare off into space and get lost in the wonderful worlds you’ve created.
You want someone else to do the legwork to get your projects made. You want someone else to tell you what to work on next. You want someone else to open the doors for you so you can make this passion a paid reality. You’re not lazy – far from it. You’re just particular about how you spend your time. After all, you get so little time to do the thing you love (writing) that you don’t want to spend those precious protected minutes or hours doing anything but writing. I’ve heard it all and said it all. I get it.
Listen, if you want to let writing be the thing you do for the fun of it to relax and unwind and enjoy, by all means please continue to do that for the rest of your life and I won’t judge you one bit. Everybody needs their thing. And writing burns more calories than wine. Though, to be fair, it’s way more fun when the two are combined.
But if your ambitions are truly to turn this talent and passion you have into a career, you’re going to need to shift your perspective a bit. You’re going to need to accept the fact that you’re the only person who will ever truly care about your career succeeding on the level you want to succeed in – whatever that means to you. And while representation can certainly help create more opportunities and open doors to that success, it’s not the be all end all. You need to do the majority of the work to guarantee longevity in the type of writing career you want.
And that means you’ll need to start doing the things you don’t want to do. There’s no easy way to say it except just get over it and accept the fact that becoming a professional writer means that you’re writing every day and doing the above-and-beyond measure that ensure that writing gets seen by more and more people. Some of the measure you need to do to get your work out there include telling the world who exactly you are. And that means branding yourself.
By taking the time to go on a self-reflective journey and figure out exactly what your point of view is in this world and how that manifests in all your stories. By walking into a pitch session, general meeting, or writer’s room knowing exactly what you bring, you make yourself (and your voice and your writing) all that much more potent and powerful. You’re always welcome to change and transform your brand. But saying you can do anything to someone means nothing. Tell the world who and what you are and the stories you want to write. Take the time to stop your writing and do the little things that will help you to become an even stronger writer by creating more opportunities for you to write. Decide who and what you are and lean into those stories so the world can hear and see them more clearly.
This is especially important for people breaking into the industry. If you’re worried you’ll be pigeonholed, cross that bridge when you get there. If you’re lucky enough to find people who will pay you to write (and, even more exciting, write for TV or film), do it. Lean into whatever it is that makes you marketable and give yourself some serious credits and experience in the room. If that something turns out not to be completely artistically satisfying, then start figuring out ways to weave in the other elements of your own voice and career you’d like to get moving. But don’t let the idea of defining who you are keep you from ever putting that line in the sand.
Anyone who takes my Branding Clinic has already heard this example, but it’s one of my favorites. Look at Jordan Peele. I’m sorry, Academy Award-winning writer/director, Jordan Peele. He started out on MADtv as a sketch comedian. He leaned into that (because he’s really really freaking funny and an excellent writer) and became even more well-known through Key and Peele (which he co-produced because he’s smart). And then he wrote, produced, and directed Get Out, which annihilated at the Box Office. Now, comedian Jordan Peele is much more than simply a goofy sketch comedian. He’s a badass power player with a successful production company, an Oscar and several other awards to his name, and a first look deal with a major studio.
So brand yourself, babes. Metaphorically, of course. Don’t be weird and use an iron or anything. Come on now.
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