We Need a Montage

The hardest thing about writing is that sometimes the words don’t come. They’re not there. They swirl in a stew on someone else’s back burner.

Today I was writing for a client (my “day” writing job), and I just couldn’t do it. No matter what I said, no matter how I said it, it all ran together into a mish-mash of confusing, stale, what-is-this-crap-I’m-producing-ness.

It’s even harder when someone says to you: “Hey, are you going to knock this one out of the park?” Yeah, I’d like to, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, jerk.

That’s when you know you have to stop. Look out the window. Take a walk. Search for wrinkles and gray hairs in the mirror.

Or…I sometimes find it helps to reflect on the occasions when I (and other people I know) decidedly did NOT hit it out of the park. More like performed abysmally to the sound of sad violins. And possibly broke some bones. Shall we go there?

I’ll start:

I once got an F on my forward dive off the diving board. Yes, but diving can be challenging, you say. And I say to you: an F, for Pete’s sake. I could have not even showed up that day and done better.

My sister tried boogie-boarding for the first time in Manhattan Beach, California, when she was about 16. We were born and raised in Colorado. Enough said.

My boyfriend and I had a bum anchor and non-existent boating skills in Croatia. Go read about that misadventure here.

I ran full-speed into a brick wall in sixth grade playing tag in a backyard. With two loose teeth held in place by my braces and blood pouring out of my nose, the emergency dentist told me, “Those teeth will die over time.” He was right. And I wasn’t even tagged out!

Twisted ankles and torn knee ligaments, anyone? My basketball-playing boyfriend and brother-in-law can relate.

How about the poor woman in red pants who had the misfortune of crossing an icy bridge in Estes Park in full view of my best friend and I (who, lucky for her, happened to share my comic love of anyone falling down). She did one of those Looney Tunes scrambles before landing squarely on her ass, and I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.

Let me keep going. I once hit a parked car on a straight road. Yes, I’m a good driver. And no, I was not intoxicated.

A girl in one of my college classes, which was held in one of those theater-type classrooms, walked in 15 minutes late one day. The only empty seats were in the front row down a long flight of stairs. Halfway down, she tripped and did a tumble-and-slide all the way to the bottom as we all watched in utter horror. Hats off to you, sister. Thank God it wasn’t me. (And I’ve never silently laughed so hard in my life).

I once did a mocking imitation of a client to a co-worker while said client was on the phone—on hold—or so I thought. She heard everything. My only excuse was that I was in my twenties.

And all those other little failures and offenses: traffic tickets, blowing a deadline, putting your foot in your mouth, taking a swing and missing the ball, getting slapped in the face by the jump rope, sitting in the wrong seat on the plane, flubbing a speech, stubbing a toe, diving under the news desk when the tornado sirens go off, delivering sub-par copy to an expectant client. Oh, the humanity…

So now that we’re done with the bloopers, let’s get back to work. Because though it can always be better, it can always, always be worse.

I Am Not a Brand

I have a Facebook page and a website. I sometimes keep people informed about what I’m doing. I have thought about my color scheme. I have asked for marketing advice. Yes, there is a whiff of “brand” here.

But I am not actually a brand.

I don’t Tweet. Occasionally I blog—about a lot of different things.

What I do is talk to my friends and family, face to face or via email, with great uncertainty about what’s happening (or not happening) with publishing my books.

I have zero sound bites memorized. I have zero thirty-second elevator speeches. I have zero media training. And when people ask me about my books, I have zero clue what to say.

Because I’m not a brand.

There are no coffee cups with the titles of my books on them, no t-shirts, no key chains, no beach towels. No one is going to associate my name with something you’d find in a swag bag—yet. And if ever there was a coffee cup with my name on it, it’s just a coffee cup…with my name on it.

I don’t have a team or an entourage, a glam squad or a publicist. I don’t have a perfume or a line of bottled water. No one is paying me to wear their clothes and vice versa. I don’t have an acceptance speech prepared. I don’t have to thank the divine in public. I never, ever want to be on the cover of a magazine that uses candy-colored lettering to announce something scurrilous about me, and then go check out my sales report to see if anything has changed.

Because I’m not a brand.

I don’t wake up in the morning and make sure that everything I say, do, wear, or think is in line with Me—the capital-letter Me that wears make-up at all times and knows my good side in photos and has a winning smile and hands out business cards at every opportunity.

And I have actually never followed the advice of anyone who talks about me or my writing in terms of “my brand.” Perhaps I am short-changing myself; perhaps I’m not. Perhaps every marketing and PR person I know is getting ready to string me up by the ankles.

But I don’t care. Why? Because I am not a brand.

I’m a writer. And foremost, a human being.

And when did we, as a species—the bundles of radiant atomic energy that each of us are, totally unique from each other in form and character, but all intrinsically connected at our deepest level—agree to not only aspire to, but make sure that our passions and ourselves embody the kind of contrived, cereal-boxed, professional-logoed, air-brushed identities with which companies use to boost profits?

This is not who we are.

Business is business, yes. Marketing is a practical function, of course. Everyone wants to look good in pictures. And I want people to read my stuff.

But I—as a creative individual—am not a brand, and neither are you.

Remember that the next time you read a book (watch a movie, listen to a song, gaze upon a painting), simply because it speaks to your soul in that elusive yet insistent language of which no packaging, tagline, or story board can ever capture. I promise you: it’s not “the brand” doing the talking…