Do you “like” me?
How the constant worry of being liked could be what’s standing in your way between you doing your best work.
If, for a moment, we treat independent writers as “brands” then I think it’s important to apply one of the most important branding rules: you have to have a manifesto. Meaning, you must strongly know what you’re about to authentically attract an audience. What sets you apart from all the others? Why should I follow you, or listen to what you have to say? You must know who you are; by owning and honing your voice. When I think of a brand I love, whether that’s a designer or a supermarket label, it’s usually because of their unwavering confidence. We respect brands who know who they are and take intelligent risks. They go above and beyond. They innovate. They push forward without permission.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” –Henry Ford
When well-known brands suddenly freak out, admitting they are unsure of who they are, it makes us less likely to buy into them unless they go whole heartedly into a rebrand with a boom and earn our respect in a new way. Our favourite brands don’t let us down. They are consistent, they are interesting, they try hard to keep us interested, but they do so on their own terms. Some of the world’s most iconic and biggest brands (for example Apple, Nike, Google) lead the charge. They do what they want to do. They release products they want to release. They don’t get scared because people might not like it. They are in control. Sometimes, I think if you concentrate too much on what people want, you lose sight of who you are and what you’re trying to do. You can’t evolve if you don’t take risks.
“We built [the Mac] for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not.” — Steve Jobs
I accidentally started creating my work the wrong way around with a real focus on wondering if it would be well received before I even wrote one word. I’d sit down to write a blog post and think: “I wonder what people would like to read?” I’d concentrate to much on catering for potential readers. I felt pressured by an invisible audience.
Trying to second guess what people would like to read meant my voice was weakening and my posts weren’t 100% what I wanted them to be. My creative process had become more and more back to front. Instead, I should have been asking myself “what do I want to write?” That should always be the starting point, in my opinion. Leading the charge.
Of course you want your work to be enjoyed. You want it to be read, “liked” and shared. Probably you’re going to want to tap into a trend, the news, an ongoing conversation or something of popularity. Of course you want your work to be discovered, and enjoyed. Being liked is nice.
“If you’re not having doubt, then you’re not pushing it hard enough.” – Tony Fadell
But worrying too much whether “my work will be liked” crippled my imagination. It crippled the risk-taking part of me, and it made me feel I had to be safe. My writing became a bit stale. Comfort-zoned. Luckily I caught myself out before it became a habit.
You cannot control what people think of you: socially, professionally, creatively. So there’s only one way to go: onwards. You should write whatyou want to write, regardless. It’s all out of your control.
Being true to yourself means that your audience grows authentically. Instead of attempting to keep people happy all the time, you build an open-minded community of readers.
If you constantly tailor yourself to meet the requirements and expectations of a certain audience — by copying other people or staying safe — you cannot build an authentic or innovative brand.
By cutting out the worry of being liked you are at least creating something true to your beliefs. Something you are proud of. If people do like it, it will be 100 times more meaningful. And if your work is sometimes not liked, then at least you’ll still be respected for doing things your way.
“In love with Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete. So funny & smart, and reminding me of some of my own cringe teen Internet exploits!”– Anna James, former literary editor of ELLE
"Funny, honest, and nostalgic!"– The Debrief
“Emma Gannon is a bright spark of light in the world. I seriously dig everything she makes”– Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Big Magic