Professional, Writer's Life

How my “branded image” affected my blog

Once upon a day in 2010, I thought about blogging. I was due to start my senior year of high school at the ripe age of 16 and had just seen “Julie and Julia.” I didn’t really think blogging about wanting to become a writer would get me a book deal, but I did think it would help me get into college. Maybe it would help me get a job somewhere as a writer. Whatever. I had no idea what a branded image was; blogging would just be fun.

I can say now with absolute certainty that my blog did, in fact, help me get a job. It still helps, even if I don’t post as often as I would like, for the simple reason that so many employers in my field want people familiar with WordPress. But back in 2010, getting a job as a writer was still an abstract concept. Sixteen year-old me used a blog to respond to classroom discussions when her classmates talked over her. She was also a pretty snobby stick in the mud who just wanted to sound smart.

Blogging used to be a creative outlet. Sometimes it turned into more of a public diary. I could talk about my writing, complain about the weird and annoying habits of customers at the movie theater I worked at. Whatever. It was my blog and if I had something to write about, all I cared about was trying to write it well.

And then college happened. My college drove the idea of having a “branded image” into our heads with a fistful of sledgehammers. Having a blog—or a website at the very least—was essential to becoming a marketable worker.

The onset of the “branded image” did a lot of lasting damage.

I combed through what I’d written as a teenager, deleting most of it. Instead of opting for a low-maintenance free template, I scoured free and premium themes for something I could mold into that precious “branded image.” I designed business cards to match. Even my writing got the brand treatment. No longer did I write about what made me think or feel. Oh no. If I wanted to write a blog post, every idea had to pass two tests:

  1. Who cares?
  2. Does it give the impression that I am a so-called authority in my field?

Maybe those questions did help me pare down my content to something resembling quality. I’d settle for even accidentally interesting. But it also welcomed in a self-harming mindset. If only I care, and it doesn’t make me look good to employers, then it wasn’t worth my time.

The artwork I proudly posted to my blog disappeared. Rambling posts about the struggles of writing whatever scene I was working on in my novel also disappeared. If it wasn’t informative, entertaining or relevant to the writing industry—outside of my own efforts to join it, of course—it didn’t go on the blog. By the time I was 20, my blog turned into an unpaid, thankless job with little to no return on my time put into it.

In that light, it’s no wonder my blogging habits deteriorated. Then I got my first post-college job, working at my college. A friend and coworker would sometimes text me about a line I’d written that might be taken the wrong way, should someone at our office read it. I’d edit the post right away. Once, she even flat out told me to take it down because it could get me fired.

It wasn’t because I’d insulted my boss. I didn’t share confidential information. All I’d done was mention a feeling of discontent and—okay, I did explicitly mention the company’s office culture of paranoia. Funny, isn’t it, that that was the post I had to delete for fear of losing my job? I republished it because what are they going to do about it now?

Even funnier: a few weeks ago, a friend who still works in that office mentioned that she and at least one other employee saw I had shared an unfavorable article about my former employer. 2016 Amanda would have fainted to see how casually 2018 Amanda shrugged and said, “I care less and less what they see me do as time goes by.”

Obsession with the branded image is a hard thing to shake.

Of course, 2018 Amanda still couldn’t blog without trying to make it seem like she was an expert in her field. I have a blog strategy outline on hand whenever I draft a new article to comply with my branded image. It dictates things like word length, posting frequency in different categories, suitable topics, and essential messages to convey (i.e., that I am an authority in my field). It was all designed to stay on-brand, which was my permanent mindset.

A friend and I talked in late 2017 about starting a podcast. By early 2018, I had set up a branded website and social media, a topic list, and so much more. By the end of 2018, my friend stepped back from the project and gave me her blessing to push on with it alone or with another co-host. Probably less than 24 hours into 2019, I decided to can the whole thing because I knew I wasn’t going to have fun with it on my own, and that I’d just be making more work for myself with no reward.

Another late-2018 idea: turn all of my blog content into free education for social media professionals. I think I got one post done on that before deciding it wasn’t a project that thrilled me.

So here we are in 2019. My first blog post of the year violates everything that strategy outline tells me I should do. I directed all of my brand-obsessed energy into overhauling my résumé. It looks damn good.

And I’m going to go back to blogging about whatever I have thoughts about. Over at Switzy Games, that’ll be video games. Here at Switzy Writes, maybe it will be about life as a writer. Maybe it will be about food. Who knows? Either way, I hope you’ll be here for the new content when it comes around.

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