Last week I read a book. It was Hank Green’s debut novel, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing – and before we get any further, I’d like to tell you that it was incredible and you should go and read it. Right now. It’s about many things, but especially about branding: the self we create versus the self we are. And it’s brilliant.
It’s taken me a few days to digest it, and the feeling I’ve been left with more than anything else is the realisation that truly, no two people read the same book. You and I might both read Hank’s book. We’d be reading it totally differently. Why is this my main thought?
Because if I’d read this book a few years ago, before I’d set out to become ‘a person people know on the internet’ (not specifically, but that is what we’re doing here in a sense), I would have taken very different things away from it. As it is, I’m left with a lot of questions that I was already asking myself.
Am I just a brand now?
Like April May, my branding is all based around me. I think this is common for a lot of authors and bloggers. So the questions it leaves me with are things like: am I being authentic? Is this the real me? Do people want the real me, or do they want a construction?
Without being spoilery, it’s safe to say that a lot of April May’s journey in An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is about not only asking those questions, but then asking who am I, if I spend all my time being this constructed me?
I think the hard thing, and yet somehow the thing that frees you from that question, is the truth is that we’re always performing for people. I’m quieter when I’m with people I don’t know. Posher when I’m with my grandparents. Louder when I’m with my friends who also talk loudly.
Each time I go into a different social setting, I’m performing a version of myself. Would you say that those versions are still me? I think I would. So then the question is whether the performing that I do here, for you, is also still me.
Well, it’s definitely not the whole me.
Because if there’s one thing I do to perform here more than anything, it’s that I censor myself.
I talk to you about my mental health very candidly, but at no point do I name the people in my life directly. There are also things that impact my mental health that I’ve never discussed on the blog, or via my Patreon, or similar. So there are lines.
But all of this is still framed as it being me. I don’t think about myself as an abstract, or plan my branding like April May does – and it was interesting to read the book and see that other way of thinking. I don’t explicitly think to myself things like the Rebecca Milton who runs this blog would not post about bunnies.
Or do I? I can definitely think of times where I’ve thought I probably shouldn’t post this, here or on Twitter. Sometimes that thought has concluded ….because it’s not really appropriate for what I’m doing. And there are things that I’ve made a decision not to talk about. That’s really what April May does too.
Okay, so I’m a brand. But what does that mean? Is it bad?
It’s certainly weird, sometimes.
Because the irony of all of this is that though there is that part of myself that still wants to be on a stage and be the centre of attention, I don’t actually view myself as someone worthy of noticing. I run this blog on stubbornness, adrenaline, not really thinking about it, and the remarkableness of your support.
But that’s how I go through life.
I think the thing is that yeah, I’m definitely curating a version of myself for you here. I am. But the times when we’re not curating ourselves are few – and precious, and treasured. I only have a few people I don’t feel that I perform for, and those relationships are truly special.
This blog, this branding of myself, is just an exacerbation of that. An extrapolation. And as long as it doesn’t get pulled to an extreme, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. There are things I shouldn’t share with you. There are ways I need to frame myself for this to work.
I just need to always be framing me, and that’s the question that April May really ends up asking – because it’s hard to see the line between framing yourself and framing an idea that once vaguely resembled you. And, much like April, I’m pretty sure the solution is to trust the people closest to you to tell you when you’ve gone a bit off the rails.
Fortunately, I think we’re still on track.
You should totally be reading An Absolutely Remarkable Thing right now, so I’m not even going to try promoting myself here like normal.