For three years I blogged under a pseudonym, which is now floating around in cyberspace like so much flotsam. I did so because I wanted to be able to express myself more freely, without those thoughts coming back to haunt me professionally or personally. (I wanted the illusion of anonymity, anyway).
When I decided to get serious about writing I thought I’d start using my real name. Given that I have the benefit of a fairly unique surname, I thought that was something I should take advantage of. That is unless a whole host of aspiring authors all decide to use Ben Ezard as a pseudonym now 🙂
But there is of course dangers in choosing to go without a pseudonym. It’s kind of like jumping into a jungle river and hoping that the water is deep enough: you’ll find out soon enough if it is, but you can’t click undo if it’s not.
My writing could easily offend people. If you take enough people and expose them to my writing, I expect that there will be a covering of the continuum between love and hate of my style and/or content. The amount of covering may vary at differing points, but as the saying goes “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
Honestly, I’m not chasing after the dollar. While I’d love to be a writer as more-than-a-hobby, I’m not going to compromise my beliefs and priorities in life, or my love of writing by succumbing to some formulaic recipe to “make it big”. (I’d go into more detail, but that’s a whole other post…)
So with my convictions set and non-negotiable there is every chance I will offend some… who I hope will be polite in disagreement, or simply choose to ignore my writing.
I don’t want to be typecast. I love writing for the imagination that it unleashes and how the stories that play out in my head can be transmitted and evolve in the imaginations of my readers.
I want to write many stories in different genres and with different flavours without being cast as a certain type of author. Pseudonyms can be used to remove perception-bias or privacy concerns. J. K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame writes crime novels under the name Robert Galbraith. C. S. Lewis of Narnia wrote A Grief Observed under the pseudonym N. W. Clerk in order to write on the intensely personal subject.
So my plan while I am learning to write is to experiment. Every time someone wants to put me into a box, I plan on jumping out… at least for the immediate future.
I could taint my name. It would be enjoyable to my ego if the name Ben Ezard was associated with good writing. I’d be more than a little embarrassed if Ben Ezard became known as a bad and never-to-be-good writer. I’d prefer anonymity to that, as would most aspiring authors. I did consider writing under a pseudonym early in my writing career and then switching to my real name. Probably that would be the smart thing to do, but I choose to be brave/stupid instead.
A point in case: though her writing has unequivocally re-cast her name, Francine Rivers was once known for her erotic romance novels sold through a popular publisher. Now she is known and loved as a Christian author of great talent. She however summarises her successful past works in this way:
They are all now out of print, are never to be reprinted, and are not recommended.
Several published works, covered in a single sentence; a footnote, and no doubt that is how she would prefer them to be considered: small, past and unobtrusive.
Rivers’ experience is one which haunts me a little. I don’t want to regret anything that I write. Intellectually, I suspect there will always be some regrets, but it is a pause for caution.
If you are going to be writing under your real name you need to be doubly careful what you write. While your opinion may change over time (which is entirely reasonable and normal) for some people it won’t be enough.