Is there anything more corporate, more soulless, more degraded than a brand? And yet, for years now, writers have been told that this is what we have to be. We have to have a USP and we have to not only produce products, but be products. Buy me! I’m a tin of beans writer.
What kind of writing does this generate? I don’t know, but there is something inherently dodgy about working on yourself as a kind of marketing project. Advertising is shady as hell. Its role is to perpetuate dangerous lies about what it means to be human. And writers and artists should be fundamentally in opposition to advertising – because we are supposed to work with true myths about the whatness of it all.
In advertising, the highest value is to be white, male, tall, rich, straight, Western, able-bodied, young and muscular. This image is King of the world. The children of the world are enslaved to this image: making his clothes and shoes, fighting in his wars, disposing of his toxic waste.
Writing is not supposed to prop him up. Writing is about releasing the ugly, slavering beasts who will find him out and tear him limb from limb.
But writers are told that we should build our brand and launch our products just as though we were nothing better than the marketing department of some shonky sports drink. As if all we want to do is sell units and move products and count our money with gleeful ha ha ha-ing. Of course, if you want to make it to the ha ha ha-ing, you have to write what sells. This is how capitalism neutralises the threat of art – it draws it in, co-opts it, and puts it in the service of big business. It makes the artist complicit.
Don’t comply. Don’t be a brand. Don’t use your talent to maintain the status quo. Write for the people who are fighting for something better. Write for children. Try to make a difference.