Earlier this year, I changed my Instagram name to match that of my blog. In lists of Important Things In My Life it’s unlikely to feature highly, but it made me think about a wider conversation about how we are perceived, how we perceive ourselves, branding, and putting ourselves out there. So – obvs – I’m gonna write about it.
Choosing a name for your blog or business can feel like a high pressured task. There’s a lot riding on that first impression. A name is pretty crucial in terms of helping shape how people view you, and, whether you feel you have one or not, your brand. I should say, when I first started my blog, I didn’t think at all about branding. I don’t fully remember my thought process when I chose Girl In The North Sea: it was a reference to Bob Dylan’s Girl From The North Country, a song I’ve always loved and felt a connection to, and it was a tongue in cheek reference to my location, which is a sort of selling point for me.
I say sort of, because I was – and am – fairly reluctant to pin too much of my blog on being from Shetland. It’s a beautiful place and, for people who haven’t been here there is (it seems) a fair bit of intrigue about what life in these remote isles is like. There aren’t too many other lifestyle blogs based here, either, so in terms of being found on the internet, these things are positives. But it’s also just a happy accident that I’m here: I didn’t move here with a certain lifestyle in mind, and I don’t want it to define me.
I didn’t want the blog to be parochial, and when I first began blogging, especially, I didn’t have any real idea about who it was for. I didn’t really have much of a clue of what I was doing, to be completely honest.
And I still don’t. Trying to narrow down a niche (as lots of the advice on blogging suggests you do) has proven impossible and often put me off writing anything: my creative dry spells are usually borne of overthinking what I “should” be doing, and worrying about how others perceive it, instead of just writing and doing and trying; attempting to shoehorn my thoughts into one neat and marketable box doesn’t help.
Another thing tangled up in all of this is the reluctance to actually talk about myself. I don’t mind – I enjoy, actually – sharing personal details if there is some point to it all. Writing about your experiences can often be cathartic, and if sharing my experiences can help someone going through a similair experience, then all the better. What I am not into, in case it wasn’t already clear, is sharing random, mundane details of my life for the sake of it.
Yet Shetland isn’t really a mundane detail: it is home, and it’s not a bad place to be. It’s a pretty special place to be, actually. Whether I’m conscious of it or not, being here does shape my opinions, influence my decisions and inspire me. It has afforded me fantastic opportunities, and as a place to bring up children it is wonderful; safe and wild and (comparatively) wealthy. I suppose like all things close to us, it’s easy to take for granted and to forget that actually, it might be interesting to some people.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of where you’re from (unless it spills over into nationalism. Then you might have a problem) and it’s not that I’m not. But it’s just a place. I didn’t want to fall into that strange category of thinking people should pay attention to me because I’m from Shetland, that it is somehow more interesting than anywhere else, and that it makes me more interesting as a result.
It wasn’t just the location aspect, though. The other thing making me unsure about the name change was the “Girl” part: I’m not sure whether I really fit into “girl” territory any more. Or whether I should have ever used that term in the first place. Is it unfeminist? Is it ageist? Does is sound like I’m trying to belittle myself? Or is it actually more feminist to claim it and to reject the idea there’s anything disempowering in using that word?
I’m going with the latter option. I am a girl. A living, breathing, writing, fucking – in every sense of the word (sorry Dad) – girl. Woman, yes; also girl. But I do feel the need to qualify that by explaining myself first, which is probably another reason we still need feminism.
This might all seem like a lot of overthinking, especially in relation to a blog and Instagram name, and I’m not sharing this because I’m under the illusion that it is hugely interesting to anyone. But what we call ourselves is important. It shapes how we see ourselves, and how other people view us. Some of these things we can’t help – people will always have their own ideas, and ultimately, we’re not responsible for how others react or choose to interpret something.
Choosing to put ourselves “out there” can produce some uncomfortable feelings, particularly, it seems, among women. (Incidentally, there is some fantastic advice on how to self-promote without feeling icky here, and in Lola Hoad’s beautiful Weekly Letters, here) I’m a bit of an introvert, I don’t want to come across as arrogant, pushy or self indulgent – and (perhaps strangely) I felt that calling my work by anything than my own name would seem more presumptuous than if I had just used my own name.
The irony of that doesn’t escape me: I am fully aware that society affords me – white, Western, me – the privilege that my name is unlikely to cause me stigma, prevent me from getting a job, or be discriminated against, and so from that perspective, I’m extremely fortunate that I don’t have to consider not using my own name.
Blogging has been a strange hobby. I suppose like anything creative which forces you to look at yourself and your motives, it can bring about a lot of “worthiness” issues. Perhaps I’m generalising, but I know it has in me, and I don’t think I’d be too hard pressed to find other creatives who struggle with imposter syndrome, lack of self belief and a general predisposition to the odd existential crisis. (Maybe that last one is just me).
For now, I’m sticking with Girl In The North Sea. I figure it might not be perfect, but it’s mine, so I’ll love it anyway.