Don’t Market Yourself

How many times in our life do we decide to do something based, solely, off of what other people are going to think of us? It’s tempting, isn’t it? “If you just market yourself correctly, you’ll make the big bucks!“ How many times do we decide to do something based off of what other people are going

Don’t Market Yourself
Photo by Melanie Deziel / Unsplash

It’s tempting, isn’t it? “If you just market yourself correctly, you’ll make the big bucks! If you can just create the right brand, followers will flock to you!” How many times have we heard this, or something like it? How many times in our life do we decide to do something based, solely, off of what other people are going to think of us?

We’re living in a plastic, digital, commodified age, and we are the commodity. We’re constantly sold the idea that we just need to be the best commodity we can be — that there is a market for our existence, if only we can just find it.

I’m telling you: don’t do it.

I make use of all of the same systems you probably do: the social media accounts, the email platforms, the writing platforms (like the one you’re reading this article on). But I feel a minor sense of pride in knowing that everything I’m doing is, for better or worse, something that I absolutely want to do. I’m not looking at the stats (very often, or for more than idle curiosity), I’m not seeking fame and glory; I’m writing because I feel a charge when I look at my own finished article and realize that something inside my mind has exited; I have managed to discharge something growing within my soul and it is through that process that I actually re-energize myself. And that’s they key: I do it for myself.

This is not good marketing. If I have a brand it’s an eclectic one, to be sure. Maybe it will connect with people, maybe it will fail to make even the smallest wave. But the point is that I’m not seeking to present myself as anything other than what I am: a brilliant, good-looking, extremely intelligent human being.

Ah, yes. Human being. Not a product, not a sum of his parts, but a wonderful, unique, glorious unity of being. Just like you. There is no package imaginable that can encompass the sheer beauty of what it means to be a human life, the more we try to label ourselves and brand ourselves, the more we fit our existence into a box too small for it. And, after a while, we might even begin to believe that the box is all we have.

When I wrote my first collection of poetry, Hart Unedited, I burned to have it published. It wasn’t for other people that I so desperately needed to see it released, however. Those poems had been haunting me for years; I would edit them feverishly and often; one of those poems transformed close to a hundred times before it finally found itself anchored to a finished form. I needed to see my work published, not because I expected others to read it and rejoice, but because I needed the words to exit my mind; to exist someplace beyond my physical form. Only then, I knew, would they let me rest.

This said, you need to be honest with yourself about why you want your work in the world. If you’re looking for growth as a writer, or credits through publication, or simple expression; it’s not wrong to release work and promote it so that people can find it; it’s not immoral to search for community and share your passions with the world. But if you do so, make sure you’re doing so for the right reasons; make sure you’re not just branding yourself as a product because that’s what the market demands. Maybe you’ll find yourself in a career where other people brand you and your work for you — if you ever reach “professional” status that’s sure to be part of the experience. But, even then, try to remember who you’re really working for: it’s not an outside other. This is your life, treasure it because it’s priceless, just like your art.

Hi there! I’m Odin Halvorson, a librarian, independent scholar, film fanatic, fiction author, and tech enthusiast. If you like my work and want to support me, please consider becoming a paid subscriber for as little as $2.50 a month!

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