After spending the last few weeks having one of those lovely “OMG WTF AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE” existential crises, I’ve decided the only appropriate solution is for me to start writing again. Even if it’s only part-time, even if it’s not paid, even if it doesn’t go anywhere. Because I need to.
Full disclosure: I used to be a legitimate writer. Before I met Dan, before I had this blog, before I even had a college degree, I freelanced for Silicon Valley Community Newspapers in San Jose. Following graduation, I was offered a full-time position, but gave it up to continue working in education because the job in education paid better.
You heard what I just said, right? After YEARS of dreaming of becoming a professional writer, I turned down the opportunity to do just that because I was worried about money.
Welcome to adulthood, I guess.
Six years later, I still haven’t forgiven myself. Yes, my life as a journalist would have been a rocky one. I’m not sure the job offered benefits, and it definitely wouldn’t have covered my rent, but I would have been doing something I loved. But with newspapers representing a dying industry and me not wanting to end up living under the New York City subways with the CEO of Friendster (anyone who gets that reference gets a cookie), I opted for the safer choice. I stayed with the program I had already been with for over a year, at the university I had graduated from, with a salary that would pay my bills.
I kept freelancing until I moved to Merced, at which point I was told that I couldn’t work with the local newspapers there because of my employer’s tenuous relationship with the media. So instead, I blogged. First on LiveJournal, then here, chronicling my life and keeping the writing bug at bay for at least a little while.
But I think the time has come when I’m ready to move back into writing. I’ve set a consistent blogging schedule here, and have reached out to other blogs about contributing. I’m stepping up my networking on Twitter and 20SB, and am generally hoping that I will be able to make something of myself within the creative community.
But there’s a problem: I’m not there yet.
I still have a professional life outside of writing, and I want to keep that separate. I don’t want my personal blog or my personal Twitter or anything that would lead back to them to be Googleable, lest my employer (or any of my students) find me. But there is no such thing as anonymity, even on the internet, and even if there was, having it defeats the purpose of what I’m trying to accomplish. So what’s a girl to do?
This is where I started toying with the idea of a pen name. A pseudonym would allow me to write freely, honestly, about anything and everything – family, friends, work – without running the risk of immediate discovery. It would also give me a consistent persona by which I would be identified, allowing me to develop and maintain a reputation (and possibly get paid) for my writing.
But do people do that? Are pen names still a thing? I don’t know anyone who uses one, and the ones I do know of (nowadays, anyway) are pretty terrible. Not to mention, how do people manage to keep track of multiple identities? No doubt that in the days before social networking, it was much easier to publish under one name and live under another. But now, you publish, tweet, blog, and probably go on book tours under that pen name. As someone who’s easily overwhelmed, I’m not sure that’s the best option for me.
What do you guys think? What’s your take on publishing under a your real name vs. a pseudonym and the inherent risk it poses to your non-writing-related livelihood?