Fantasy or fantastic, 13 reasons to use a pseudonym….or not.

I appreciate the questions the “Opinionated Man” puts forth on his blog, and the latest one rang for me. During the course of the comment I was writing on his article, I decided to address it here for myself, as I made a choice on the issue recently to reveal myself online. Well, I didn’t take my pants down…..again, but I did decide to own my pen name, as it was wearing on me to constantly feel that I needed to hide it.
The comment:
Pro pseudonym:
1. Privacy. 2. The work potentially proves it’s worth alone. 3. You won’t have to be praised to your face. 4. Mysterious is sexy and breeds curiosity. 5. If your book is hot enough, your wife won’t have to deal with women banging on the door trying to get a lay with a rock star. 6. You won’t have to go on book tour. 7. Giving the profits to a worthy cause anonymously will be easier. 8. Your kids won’t have to defend it with fisticuffs at school. 9. I’m looking into it myself. 10. Sometimes I think a potential mate would rather know me in person, and some of my best friends don’t read my writing, which could be so they don’t have to prematurely know what I’m thinking about. 11. Writing is lonely, and your wife misses you, so maybe an alternate identity would allow you to close the office door when your with her so she can spend time with the guy she married instead of the “ten foot online awesome one” she gets to share with the world, because he writes. 12. The fan mail for you will go to another address, and you can revel in your accomplishment without her feeling like she’s not as cool as you are. 13. Fame is fun like “the best moments owning a boat: buying it, and selling it.” Hmmm, I might be on her side.

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Then again…
Pro True Name
1. Your writing could have more weight with people’s judgement of how honest it is if you own it. 2. Accountability and accepting responsibility for what your writing does in the world, may give it more value to you? 3. You like being a recluse, and she thinks it’s hot. 4. It’s easier to maintain motivation as a writer when you get positive feedback, and the best forms of that are emulation, or directly from people you care about. 5. It will be easier to convince the guys at the barbecue that you’re a bread-winner, if you can show them the paper. 6. Hiding an identity makes real life conversation uncomfortable and leads to people being suspicious of you. 7. You get to go on book tour. 8. The women banging on your door could help your wife know that your worth her effort to love you. 9. Dressing up in costumes to avoid recognition can be fun for the whole family, it’s like Halloween all year, and a brand new car every week is reliable transportation. 10. You may have to move to a small town in the country, and take your wife to the city for culture exposure when she needs a dose of dancing. Poor you, it’s pretty in the country. 11. It’ll be easier to get respect at writing conferences, and the feedback can come through your ears instead of just your sneaky eyes. 12. You won’t have to worry about hiding who you are to people who might accidentally reveal your pseudonym(or intentionally in spite). 13. People in your life that have an opinion that matters to you, may be more encouraging of your lifestyle if they value what you make, and if they get the chance to read it…..

It’s an interesting paradigm. I imagine it’s different for writers that have accrued financial success or notoriety. It’s probably different for every writer regardless. For those of us down here in the “I’m broke as shit and haven’t got a thing to show for my writing but satisfaction and something to share that I think has value”, putting our name on it may be the only thing we can do to justify our efforts to the people around us.

Every time I share my blog addresses, and wish to give somebody a way to accept my apparently to them, crazy lifestyle, it’s a mixed bag of tricks. Do I think the writing is good enough? What about the presentation? Do they really want to know that much about me? Are they even going to read it? Is it going to change our relationship? Do I want that?

I’m weary of the comment that people are envious of how I live my life. Frankly, that comment sucks. Being self-employed is neither easy or fun unless it’s done right, and after over twenty years of it, I’m still figuring out what that looks like for me.

It gives me the feeling that they have no idea how stressful “freedom”, or the lack of a stable career path or employment is. Right now I’m staying with Family, and while that is wonderful for a myriad of reasons, it’s not particularly conductive to pride. Envy me not for the things I have to humble myself to accept on the path to emerge as a writer, in fact, don’t waste your time with envy at all.

Searching for the quote, “don’t write unless you have to”, brought me to a great article on emerging writers. As a student of the trade, I’m enjoying jumping out of the closet, publishing wildly, and spending less time on doubt. It was rewarding to read about what a more balanced process would look like, and reflecting on how I’m failing myself in some basic publishing stress reduction techniques.

Trial by fire has always thrilled me more. Like the idea of begging for forgiveness vs. asking for permission. My struggle as a writer is that I don’t really want to wait. I get satisfaction by hitting the publish button on something I want to share. Unfortunately the economy doesn’t work that way though, and I’d like to have my writing be self-sustaining, so I’m studying what the other side of the coin looks like.

Maybe if I looked at my blogging as sharpening the knife. Cutting with a dull knife is stupid, as it takes longer, your more likely to slip, and when you do the potential injury will take longer to heal, as the cut is ragged. The analogy works well to describe the process Lauren’s article painted. Her advice was take your time, or “think slow”, which to me is sound…but doesn’t come natural, or feel fun.

So writing here is fun, and I’ll be working up to a more formalized approach in the land of what I like to call Chrysalis Draft Craft. I spit this one out. I hope it was palatable, and if it wasn’t, feel free to follow the links, as the two writers I referenced make words fit well.

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5 comments

    1. Right on Jason, thanks. I liked the delayed response to the post here. It helped to make your “yet” stronger in regards to my hope or disappointment….we get to pick one. Likewise with your choices…pseudonyms can be fun… 😉

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