Branding has finally reached the snobs who think they are above it.
Every Gen Y-er knows about personal branding, and every Silicon Valley social media maven has one eye on their Klout score. But this year the New York Times declared that branding is a must-do for psychologists. You can’t make money if you don’t have a brand.
I was thrilled to read this because I have thought for many years that my therapists could benefit from having me help them run their careers. But whenever I ventured into this territory, the therapist invariably did something annoying like reminding me of client-therapist boundaries. Now, though, it’s clear: they should hire me.
Also, in case you think you are not in a field that requires branding, there is now officially nothing without a brand. Because look, even Liechtenstein is rebranding itself as a party room: Harper’s magazine reports that you can rent the whole country for the evening for $20,000.
The thing is that most people don’t want to brand themselves as a party room; they want to be known for being creative. Which makes sense because really, we are all creative – to be human is to be creative. But you have to work hard at it to be good.
Jonah Lehrer wrote a great article about how to be known for being creative. Of course this is before he made the famously stupid, but certainly creative, blunder of manufacturing quotes from Bob Dylan and subsequently becoming a persona non-grata in the journalism field. Lehrer shows that creativity is something that is learned, from practice.
Part of how you learn it is by collecting a wide range of information so that you can put things together in new ways. (Which is why you should always click on the links in my post. In fact, here’s one answering the question, “What does it feel like to have a trophy wife?” How can you not be curious about that?)
Another way to be creative is to look at trends, for how creative people are gaining traction. There are plenty of people known for their creativity who tell you the rules they follow. The well known comic strip author Hugh MacLoed writes some rules he uses for cultivating creativity. Here are three more rules about creativity that are gaining traction.
1. Being a misfit is something to brag about.
We have entered the age of the misfit. The Economist made a formal proclamation that business is benefitting from people with Aspergers, dyslexia and ADHD. At least twenty people sent the article to me, which makes sense, because I have all three. So I’m excited for my big moment, where ads for seven-figure job openings specify that the person should have all three of those mental aberrations. And I’m excited that the job opening will be for something where I don’t have to sit in an office all day long being nice to people, since I can’t do that.
2. The starving artist has made way for the SEO artist.
It used to be that there was no way to make money as an artist unless you could wow a gallery owner with your art, or sleep with him. Now, though, artists can take sales into their own hands. James Maher is a great example of this artist entrepreneurship – he’s selling his prints direct, from his site, and he’s so smart about SEO that he told me not to link to his name, but link from the keyword street photography instead.
And look at that photo up top. It’s by Elly Mackay and she calls it papercraft theater. I found her work on the art site My Modern Metropolis, which links to her etsy store, which means she’s getting traction without having to get into the Whitney. Fine art gatekeepers are falling in favor of the long tail marketers, and this means determined artists can support themselves. And we all get to see a lot more great art.
3. Plagiarism is finally getting some respect.
Quentin Rowan is featured in the New Yorker because he applied his photographic memory to maybe-plagarizing a whole book in such an artful way – using an incredibly large number of sources – that it’s hard to get angry at him.
The kids at Stuyvesant, the kids who scored around the top .0001% of all New York City high school students, came up with a really clever cheating ring that got them caught, but also got them enough respect from the school-is-stupid press to give the kids a voice. The tests are stupid – it’s just memorizing. The kids who do best on the tests don’t do best in life. And it’s impossible to regulate cheating these days.
Nick Denton, media mogel and fearless leader of Gawker, pointed out that most publications are reprinting stuff from other publications, and no one seems to care, which is very similar to kids reprinting phrases from the Internet. At least in so far as no one cares.
The only people who care are people whose jobs are to be the enforcers, but we probably don’t need enforcers: if you don’t like it, don’t read it. And if you give kids tests that measure something important in life – like grit and determination – there is no way to cheat.
And that, probably, is what you want your personal brand based on anyway – grit and determination. It seems to me that it’s the core of creativity. And it also seems to me that it’s what we would want most from a theapist that we hire – that they should have grit and determination themselves and know how to help us get it.
So the truth is that the way to be known for your creativity is to work really hard at being creative. That’s the bad news. Because everything worth aiming for is hard work and I wish that were not true. I wish I could sneak in one easy thing and get a lot of credit for doing it.
The good news is that there are things you’re working hard at – like coping with being a misfit and finding clever ways to plagiarize – that you didn’t realize were, in fact, the hard work of achieving recognition as a highly creative person.