Building a brand: Why ThisNerdCan
I started the ThisNerdCan project at the University of Essex in November, 2016. I was studying Sociology and Criminology and was doing a module called ‘Digital Society.’ Our first (And longest) assignment was to start a blog. The only things we needed to make sure the blog actually had were 20 blog posts and it wasn’t allowed to be porn, which someone had done a few years previously. I still don’t know if they passed or not. I was really excited about doing the blog until my first lesson. I was brimming with ideas: I wanted to interview musicians and write reviews on their concerts and merch, I wanted to talk about all the shit that goes along with politics and the news, I wanted to do the opposite of what guidebooks do and explore the strangest places to visit and worst things about travelling. The first idea was knocked down as my professor gave an example of a previously successful blog to the class. It happened to be exactly the same as my nonexistent one so that dream died there and then. The second blog was a list of rants that were neither amusing or with purpose and so had to be ended both for my grades and my sanity. The third already existed in the form of a book. Coming up with ideas, I decided, was not easy. It wasn’t until I was at a comic convention and talking to Twisted Dark’s Neil Gibson that I started thinking seriously about what I should do.
“Why don’t you write about comics?”
Then I was off. Very slowly but also very surely I worked out what I could do with comics. I don’t draw, could I learn to draw in 20 weeks and create a blog about making my own comics? Do I have enough time to focus on learning to draw? Could I do a list of my top 20 comics and focus on one each week? I started absentmindedly scrolling through Kickstarter when I thought how good it would be for non-mainstream creators to have a platform to share what they do in a bit more detail and let people know who they are. Then I realised I could make that platform. I began messaging artists and writers I admired and asking to interview them and share their work. Then it grew into board games. Then photographers and authors. I wanted to make a place artists could come to share their work and for other people to explore a whole array of different people who they hadn’t heard of before.
I began to get to know my audience and how to create content they would enjoy and engage with. I got less shy about introducing myself to new people whose work I admired. I occasionally wrote more personal posts so people would relate to the ThisNerd character and feel like, they too, could. I began doing things I ordinarily would never do as I stepped out of my comfort zone and my confidence built. It wobbled a bit when I invited Reddit to roast me but I turned it into a blog post and felt empowered by it, eventually. The final week of the course we had to present what we’d done to the class and everyone’s blog was different and unique and amazingly done. Fellow pole fanatic Karen ran a really cool blog on pole dance and fitness and later moved it over to Instagram and kept it going. I follow it and it’s still great for motivating myself to do something other than stare at my computer and go, ‘ughhhhhhh’ as I try and think of what to write. My friend Nicole still updates her blog on travel, her year abroad and the process behind it. When I was stranded at an airport deep in the bowels of Ontario at 3AM after my flight changed, I remembered her entries on getting an American Visa as I realised with dread, ‘Oh god, I need one of those.’
I tried to keep my blog going after the presentation because I felt like it did have the potential to showcase people’s work and gain them some support and I loved that I had created a platform for artists to do that. I hadn’t posted in a while when I got my grade, a First. I was delighted and went onto Facebook and thanked everyone for all their help. I started mindlessly scrolling and saw a post that stopped me in my tracks. ‘RIP E*. You’ll be missed.’ I thought it was a joke until I clicked on it. I figured they’d got too drunk the night before and were feeling rough. Unfortunately, it was real. In the time I knew E, they had become motivated and focused on their future and so this website is, in part, run for them. E taught me, by example, I could do anything I put my mind to. E showed me that I was a nerd that could. I’m sharing this with you because if you want something, you should work for it and not put it off another moment. The last conversation I had with E was about the future and it still haunts me. Do not put off what you want because you don’t have time or the time isn’t right.
Think about what you want. Think about why you want it. Think about who it is for.
And then, when you have thought about it, go for it. You are a NerdThatCan and I cannot stress that enough. You don’t have to quit your job or do anything radical to know what your aims are and work towards them. Since E’s death, my project is for anyone, anyone who is bold enough to create something and then decides to share their creation with the world, anyone seeking empowerment through art. Everyone featured on this blog started somewhere and so I urge that if you are looking for a sign this is it.