I am…

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

It’s that time of the month again! [No, not that…or that :-)] It’s Insecure Writers Support Group time. This is where us writers in various stages of our process open up about our challenges and insecurities in order to create a network of support. To see other writers who are a part of this group, please click here.

I have debated for a very long time about using a pen name.  I definitely had an EXCELLENT reason for using one: my real name is initially hard to pronounce (scratch that, always hard as people will continue to butcher it after I’ve told them how to say it).

So, here is the scenario in my head that compelled me to go with a pseudonym:

Ms. Lovta Reed walks into a bookstore. She only has enough money to purchase ONE book. She finally narrows it down to my book under my actual name and another person with a pronounceable name. The genre is the same, the writing style is similar, the price point is the same, both covers look amaze-balls and the plots are pageturners. Whose book does she go with?

The one whose name she can pronounce was always my answer. How else is she going to tell her friends to go buy the book? “Yeah, girl, you need go pick up this book by umm…yeah, I don’t even know how to say this name.” Then her friend attempts to find my book, but can’t remember my name or how to say it. As a certain person once said when she came down with a case of bronchitis after her apartment building caught on fire, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

So, I took on a pseudonym but decided to make it close to my real name. But after some time, I just wasn’t crazy about it, so I dropped it and began blogging and tweeting under my real name again. But a pen name was always in the back of my mind, so I decided to dig a little deeper into why this was just one more thing I was being wishy-washy over.

Did I plan on hiding under the “name”? Absolutely not. My face would still be out there. The name would not be an excuse to bash people and stir up all sorts of trouble that leads to litigation. Would I be “hiding” in a different way, perhaps? Meaning, would this name be some sort of alter ego that would do, say, and write things that I wouldn’t say and do under my actual name?

That’s where I realized I was getting it twisted. The name was not my issue. My insecurity was. Using a pen name does not equal an alter ego. Besides, writing is not just something I just like to do, it is who I am. An alter ego or secret person was not what I needed. (Sidebar: I was once told by a former manager years ago that in order to survive in the field I was working in, I would have to be somebody that was NOT me…needless to say, I no longer work in that field!) I had to admit that I was and still am, dealing with some level of insecurity because this passion of mine is not a typical path, such as becoming a lawyer, an engineer, or a doctor. There isn’t always instant gratification or something tangible that others or I can always see. What I actually needed was to accept the fact that I am a writer, a creative soul who must do this in order to flourish.

Once I overcame that hurdle, I decided to take on a business-like approach to pen names and see if I felt the need to use one. If I look at me, the writer, as a business, I would have to establish and build a brand. If I looked at a pen name as if it were a brand or a company name, does using one now make sense? Again, I have a compelling reason (a somewhat unique, yet hard to pronounce government name) to create a “company/brand” name that is pronounceable, catchy, and embodies the spirit and style in which I write. And when I looked at pen names from that angle, it absolutely made complete sense for me to adopt one.

So I did.

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7 comments

  1. I think that whatever reasons you want to use a pen name, do it. A wise woman once stopped by my blog and said, “Do you, boo.” We have enough to worry about with writing books! When characters act up and you want to kick them out the house, or the moment we realize that something is dreadfully wrong with our plots. And our names? Chile, don’t even get me started! I decided that I would write funny stuff under “Quanie” and other stuff under my government name, “Shaquana.” I wondered if people would have trouble saying it but then I realized I didn’t care. There’s a book that I love (called Nervous Conditions) by this author whose name I can never remember. But I remember the title, and if I ever want to remember who wrote it I’ll just google, “the author who wrote Nervous Conditions” and her name will pop up. I’m hoping others will do the same for me. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll be successful no matter what you do. The thing it boils down to is the book. Now, about Melanie and Russell…

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  2. I’ve had my pen name for 20 years, though lately I’ve begun to wonder if another pen name would better-match my writing style. I originally chose one because I thought any good writer needs a pen name, and my real name is boring and common as dirt. It’s the most common/popular female name in history after only Mary/Maria. My real surname often gets mangled from its Slovakian state to something Irish or Scottish, and I’m a proud Lucy Stoner, so I’ll have the same surname my whole life, marriage or not. Maybe I’m just overthinking it, since I’ve thought of my writing self as Carrie-Anne for two whole decades, even if today I’d choose something a little more creative.

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