There is something awesome about having a secret: The thrill, freedom, excitement, a certain je ne sais quois…
“The first rule of fight club is: you don’t talk about fight club.”
That’s kind of how my writing started. As a secret. I had mused to friends and family members for a while about writing something: a book, a blog, my ideas were inconstant. But when I actually started writing for real, I didn’t tell anyone for several months. Eventually I started telling people I was writing a book, or several, because I’m one of those people who gets too excited to hold things in. But this website, my author Instagram account, Wattpad account, and pen name, have been kept secret. My spouse doesn’t even know I have this site, unless he’s been looking at my phone or iPad without my knowledge, which let’s face it, is entirely possible. He’ll be relieved to know that I’m not texting some lover at midnight in the bathroom, but rather jotting down a fleeting thought or dream I just had for a book, short story, poem, etc.
Why keep it secret? Why don’t you want those who love you to know?
(maybe you’re thinking this question)
Well, like I said above, there are many reasons, but for me the answer was:
Freedom from anyone else’s expectations.
Expectations, which are invariably placed on us by others, with or without their conscious knowledge, can be a huge barrier to creativity. Have you ever had that idea, or dream, or interest in doing or creating something only to find that once you actually tell someone what you’re doing or thinking of doing it seems to lose its appeal? Maybe someone made an offhand comment about how “hard” that thing would be, or trying to be helpful said, “gosh, maybe you should start with X, before you try Y.” Or maybe they get too invested in your success and never stop asking you how it’s working? Any or all of the above can frequently happen to us when we set out to create something, change a career, try a new hobby etc. It’s stifling.
If my expectations are only that I have fun, then it’s a lot easier to fail. And I am sure I am going to fail a lot on the path toward becoming a good writer, and hopefully a published author. While I am hopeful that this writing of mine might turn into a career (or at least make me some small bit of money in the end – see this post where I talk about passive income), if it doesn’t, if this turns out not to go anywhere and ends up just being something that I’m interested in for a bit but not long term, then no harm no foul. I’m free to pretend none of this ever happened without disappointing anyone.
Why a pen name?
I am choosing to write under a pen name for several reasons:
- Business Practices
While you probably could figure out who I am with a bit of digging, I’m intentionally keeping my real name out of the public eye on this. Thankfully most people are lazy and won’t care to dig. I have a family, and my own life outside of writing, and want our privacy preserved if I actually end up making something of myself, or if my book ends up pissing a lot of people off. I figure it’s probably best to have hate mail routed to a PO box rather than my house right?
Many authors, including Joanna Penn (who is a fabulous resource for author business related information), will tell you that having a pen name, or multiple, as the case may be, can help optimize your author business. Having different pen names for different genres of books allows websites and “author bots” to separate ratings, reviews, and ideal readers. The reality of our world is most things are going to be gotten digitally these days, and that means relying on search optimization and bots to help your books get to the people who will love reading them the most. The last thing I want is for my debut novel (which is going to be in the genres of speculative fiction and religious thrillers) to be recommended to people who only want to read romance (and if I wrote romance under the same name would be a potential issue).
(A secondary business practice issue relates to writing on the side. I don’t feel comfortable with my current job knowing that I am doing this, so I would prefer if my real name didn’t get circulated in the wider sphere before I am ready.)
Who doesn’t want a secret alias? I plan to have several! 😉