What's in a name? More than you'd think

What's in a name?

Am I quoting Shakespeare or a brand consultant there?

They'd disagree fundamentally over the next line.

That which is a rose does not smell half as sweet in marketing-speak if you moniker it all wrong.

Apothecary's Rose, Flutterbye, Joseph's Coat. Rainbow Knockout, Peachy Creeper.

Stop me when you smell success.

The right name is seen as increasingly crucial, which is why, I suppose, such things as brand consultants and pseudonyms exist in the first place.

I'm reminded of my own struggle with naming every time I travel.

It's that little column halfway down arrival/departure documentation.

The one that says OCCUPATION.

These days I print WRITER with pride, or POET as a variation, which went down particularly well in Morocco, where the immigration guy on the boat held forth, sincerely, about the importance of poets to a culture.

Oh yeah.

I didn't want to tell him that most of the poems I write aren't exactly ladylike and wouldn't pass the grandmother test and desperately tried to recall anything pastoral I'd ever written just in case he asked for a snippet.

Which he didn't.

It was all good and fine and welcoming.

Which couldn't have been more different from the reception my writerly status got on the phone with the nice car insurance people in the UK.

''Occupation?'' she asked. I played the writer card.

''Books? Journalism?''

How fabulous.

This was not your stereotypical monotone telephone operator.

This lovely young lady was interested. In me. In my career.

''Umm ... well ... articles, stories, poems, plays. A bit of everything, I suppose.''

''Articles, like in a newspaper? Journalism, then. OK. We can't do it.''

What? Turns out that writers are uninsurable.

Or it could've been a combination of non-resident, writer, Eurotouring and a big orange van that saw me denied. But still.

Of course, little Ms Insurer had no idea how long I'd practised asserting myself, branding myself, even, as a writer.

I never went as far as having one of those Poet Permission Slips, giving myself the right to write, but I used to ask my nearest and dearest to test me on it; ask me what I do; did I tell you without sounding attention-seeking or apologetic?

It's not that I'm ashamed.

On the contrary, hand on heart and heart on sleeve, this writing malarkey totally and completely spins my wheels.

Ego is a fragile thing, like the stories we tell each other and ourselves.

Bolstering up the brand of our creative endeavours in conversation and on screen can make them look rock solid, but isn't it doubt that drives us to better our best efforts?

How dare I take on the mantle of OCCUPATION: WRITER when there are people out there who do it so much more betterly well?

Here's the thing though.

If you break it down into its most basic components, an occupation is what occupies you; a practice.

So a writer practices writing, a teacher (totally insurable, by the way), teaching, and a mother (also insurable), mothering. Artist and arting.

OK, that doesn't quite fit the linguistic mould but you get the point.

The annoying trend is that it's not good enough just to practise your practice.

You've got to trumpet it.

You've got to market it.

Align it, accessorise it.

Position your brand.

It's not enough to be self-employed in the art of arting, you've got to get people to wake up and smell your roses and remember them and you. And how does that dilute the practice?

I wonder how Shakespeare, whose own brand is worth an estimated $600million now, would've played the game today?

Here's another, lesser-known clue, from his Sonnet 61:

Thence comes it that my name receives a brand,
And almost thence my nature is subdued.

How much Peachy Creeper is soil toil and how much only scent of success?

The modern practice of Much Ado About Marketing?

Or maybe it was ever thus.

Liz Breslin 

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