Thoughts from the Tractor: A Gift vs. A Brand


A couple years ago I took an Oral Interpretations class, mostly because I liked the teacher. The class was basically about how to read out loud well. We recited poetry, dramatic monologues, and radio programs, and had a good time in general.

The teacher, Ms. Ivey, gave us this piece of advice to combat public speaking jitters: “Remember. When you are speaking, you are giving the audience a gift.”

Of all the public speaking advice I’ve received over the years in various classes and from various teachers, this has stuck with me and helped me the most. When I’m standing in front of an audience, with that shaking, sinking feeling, her words come back to me.

“You are giving the audience a gift.”

Suddenly, the focus shifts. It’s not about me and the likelihood of my failure, it’s about blessing the audience. They’re not judging me. People don’t pick apart gifts to make sure they’re good enough, they accept gifts and are thankful for them.

I’ve begun to try to apply this philosophy to other areas of my life as well. Specifically, the world of online creative content.

It seems to me that lately everything in the world is about branding. This was a hugely pervasive idea in the Journalism program at UO–that you had to figure out immediately who you were, who your audience was, what you wanted to prove–and subsequently brand yourself as such.

Think about the blogs that get the heavy traffic. The Instagrammers who get thousands of likes on their photos. They do certain kids of posts so that certain kinds of people swarm to them. They may be “the fashionable one,” or “the cook,” or “the mountain climber.”

They have a brand.

Personally, I find this sad and somewhat scary, to think of the pressure to find a brand to garner fleeting attention. Because brands don’t bless people. Brands don’t have consciences. Brands exist solely to sell product.

I don’t want to live in a world where everyone is trying to sell me something.

So today, as I circled around a field, disking the soil into bits, I thought maybe I should think of the web as a place to give gifts, instead of a place to create a brand.

If you post something funny on Facebook, or link an interesting article, someone will enjoy that you did that. It’s a gift. As long as one person gains value from it, it’s a successful gift.

Conversely, if you post an Instagram picture and only three people like it, it’s not a very successful brand.

There’s a freedom in this, because there’s nothing to prove. You don’t have to figure out if you want to be the bookworm or the happy mommy or the political junkie. You can bless the world by just being you.

So, you’re welcome for this blog post (insert humble curtsy), and thank you to everyone who has blessed me with interesting articles on Facebook, pretty picture on Instagram, and nice comments on this blog.

(hint hint)

15 responses to “Thoughts from the Tractor: A Gift vs. A Brand

  1. THANK you for putting into words what I could not about “finding your brand”! Something always really bothered me about that concept but I just couldn’t put my finger on it exactly…..people would tell me that I “needed to find my brand” or certain things did or didn’t “go with my brand” and I never knew what it was about it that bothered me. And now I know. It’s that I am more comfortable with giving the audience a gift, than I am with trying to sell something. Thanks for putting those thoughts into words!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for posting! I do enjoy your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thought-provoking. I’ve been mulling over similar things myself, lately. Thanks for this!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. thank you for this gift

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like the alternative you give. Supporting a brand comes with more stress and pressure, gives less room for artistic licence and free expression. But sharing a gift is less confining and still has a responsibility to the audience.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this!

    I have really been struggling with blogging for a while already. I don’t enjoy it like I used to, and I know exactly when it all started going downhill.

    When I started my blog, I didn’t worry if I was going to have any readers. I wrote because I enjoyed it. I wrote what ever I wanted to about life, thoughts, and lots of memories of my Amish childhood/growing up that I wanted to keep for my children.

    That led to a publishing contract for a series of books based on my childhood. I was happy to have that opportunity to become a published author, but then things started going downhill. My blog that had been a fun place for me began to be held over my head as my publisher kept wanting me to promote my books, to write about specific Amish topics, and even going so far as to ask for my password so they can do occasional updates. I refused to hand it over, but I no longer feel at home on my own blog. I don’t want it to die like so many blogs do, so I keep throwing out occasional posts, that even I don’t enjoy reading.

    Thanks for the refreshing change of outlook, and hopefully I can apply this to my writing and once again enjoy blogging rather than feel I need to be a brand that I have come to loathe.


    • Emily Sara Smucker

      I find this SO interesting, and also sad. I remember discussing with my friend Esta once how it seems like so many good bloggers lose their authenticity on their blog and become “branded” once they get a book deal.

      Even so, I never made the connection that it’s the publishers who put pressure on those writers to brand their blogs. I guess I should be much more grateful for the fact that my publishers never did anything of the kind with my blog.

      I sincerely hope that you can learn to enjoy blogging again, because I think you have a lot to offer. πŸ™‚


  7. I was going to pass over this post. Other things to do, you know. But my curiosity… πŸ˜€

    I’m glad I decided to “just eyeball it a bit” to get a sense of its direction. Now if most of the rest of my day’s decisions are as good and profitable as this one…

    Thank you for reminding me of the gift of gift-giving in my writing and speaking. I’ve been challenged by just this in my preparations for my recent talk at Wough Tea (aka, WFTI) and my writing for CLE.

    Branding? Now there’s a load not worth its weight. (Not like I should worry about that anymore, but I still find it weighing on me at times. Weird.)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Applause, applause. I love this perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Amen. You have discovered a Pearl. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for this Emily. I sometimes have the weird feeling that I need to be a certain person (choose a brand- although I never thought of it that way) and stick with it. I didn’t really want to do that though. This post is so encouraging- I can just be who I am. Because any other way would be so difficult. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you…I am not a blogger, but ALWAYS have that horrid feeling when I have to speak/read in front of adults (I will do anything in front of children, even my horrible singing!). I don’t pick apart another person when it is their turn, so why do I belie they are doing that to me? I will pray to be a blessing to them, and try to let it go. I usually pray for myself, but I like the idea of turning it around. Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. *Claps politely* haha, thank you for another one of your gifts, Emily.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Money and Blogging | The Girl in the Red Rubber Boots

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