Pseudonym.ψευδώνυμον (pseudṓnymon). ‘False name’*. I had a discussion with Dion Kagan about my pseudonym at the Visible Ink launch last night. Afterwards, I jotted down a couple of notes on the pros and cons of writing pseudonymously.
- You get to keep your friends (and your job).
- Writing anonymously/pseudonymously can be liberating for those who work with a particular style, genre, or content. Megan Lindholm also writes as Robin Hobb. Mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson wrote Alice in Wonderland under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.
- Pseudonyms are often useful for people with lengthy or difficult to pronounce names.
- Or it can be used to create a new identity (‘branding’) such as in the case of Helen Darville/Demidenko.
- There’s double handling: two Facebook accounts, two Twitter accounts, two email accounts, two personal websites, two blogs, etc.
- New acquaintances/readers can get confused: ‘So, what’s your real name again?’
- There’s a lack of consolidation in one’s writing folio, especially if one uses multiple pseudonyms.
When I started writing pseudonymously, I was attracted to the idea of anonymity. I didn’t want to be hostage to my life, and the pseudonym helped me detach and meditate on what was happening around me. But the anonymity didn’t last long. It might have if I was a writer hermit, but as I started meeting others in the writer community, I had to take ownership of my words again. Despite this, and despite the fact that the name looks unpronounceable, I still like my pseudonym. It’s a way to reclaim my ethnic heritage, as well as giving me the opportunity to challenge the ethnic writer stereotype.
Am I hiding behind a persona? I was, I guess, but not any more. Am I selling out? Probably, ethnic lit’s the current cash cow (though I’m writing less ethnic lit nowadays, so maybe not.) Do I still have my friends and my bread-earning job? Check and check. It’s all good, Sunshine.
Speaking of challenging ethnic stereotypes, I’ve finally got that T-shirt from topatoco.com. I wore it shopping yesterday, and a guy at JB HiFi came up to me while I was browsing and said, ‘Ni hao!’ To which I replied in my ocker accent, ‘Actually, the T-shirt states that Chinese is not my native language.’ He was crushed.
A couple of hours later, I saw Simon McInerney with the same T-shirt. *SIGH* On him, it’s whimsically nonsensical. On me, it just gets misinterpreted.
*As per Wikipedia.