19 votes

On deciding whether to use a pseudonym or not

I have writing, prose and in verses, that I want to start submitting to magazines. I can't decide if I should use a pseudonym or not. My reasons for using one:

  • I have problems with my name: it is ideologically loaded, people can tell my dad was a nationalist, which is an ideology I reject and oppose

  • I feel like it would somehow good for me to distance myself a bit from my work, don't know why really

  • I guess I am intimidated by potential failure a bit, so maybe "getting my feet wet" with a pseudonym could help me get over it.

But I also want to own my work, and feel like using a pseudonym with complete secrecy is a bit... cowardly, if I am totally honest. I consider using a pseudonym which I will publicly own later, but then, is there a point to it?

What do you think about it?

8 comments

  1. Catt
    Link
    I am personally all for pseudonyms, and don't feel they are cowardly at all. And if you choose a name that has meaning to you, it's still yours. In some ways, maybe more since you picked it. Good...

    I am personally all for pseudonyms, and don't feel they are cowardly at all. And if you choose a name that has meaning to you, it's still yours. In some ways, maybe more since you picked it.

    Good luck!

    19 votes
  2. [3]
    Whom
    Link
    It's hard, because how you think about being a coward (which I think many of us would disagree with) really depends on you and there's really no way to get at that from an outside perspective....

    It's hard, because how you think about being a coward (which I think many of us would disagree with) really depends on you and there's really no way to get at that from an outside perspective.

    That said, your reasons seem largely practical. You want to keep yourself safe and have the opportunity to keep yourself and your work separate for your own sake. You want to avoid adding connotations to the work which you don't want there. You ask if there's a point if you publicly own it later, but that doesn't negate those things at all. Your work will still have had the opportunity to make the impact that it will without your name's influence and you were able to shield yourself from that feeling of putting yourself out there until you're sure what that means. The reason for doing those things remains intact and you have the extra control of dropping that whenever you feel like doing so. So from an outside perspective, doing it looks like a good idea.

    9 votes
    1. [2]
      unknown user
      Link Parent
      Thanks a lot! That is a great answer. Just wanted to address the "cowardliness" bit: it is not something I really think, but rather something that I feel, that is, more of a gut reaction than a...

      Thanks a lot! That is a great answer. Just wanted to address the "cowardliness" bit: it is not something I really think, but rather something that I feel, that is, more of a gut reaction than a conscious idea.

      4 votes
      1. tn5421
        Link Parent
        I have no desire to be famous in any sense of the word, or at least to not have such attached to my real life name.

        I have no desire to be famous in any sense of the word, or at least to not have such attached to my real life name.

  3. ThatFanficGuy
    Link
    I've met a few people in my life who had chosen a pseudonym to go by around people – not to conceal their identity, but to present themselves in a different matter. I'm one of those people. The...

    I've met a few people in my life who had chosen a pseudonym to go by around people – not to conceal their identity, but to present themselves in a different matter. I'm one of those people. The reasons were different every time, but every single one was tied to a single goal: to escape something.

    Neither case was bad, or of malicious intent. It was never about deception, or hiding something. It was mostly about being born in a circumstance they didn't appreciate – or outright hated – and wanted to ascend above that. Names have an interesting way of tying into how we see – and present – ourselves. They hold ideas of who their bearer is: the traits, the values, the personality. In a way, choosing a different name for yourself is dissociative: in that, we choose to set ourselves-as-we-see-ourselves apart from the persona ascribed to us by our origin, or by the people giving the name.

    Typically, running is not seen as a courageous move. Running is thought of as something to do when victory is beyond our grasp. But then, the cultures enforcing it never specify what victory constitutes. For some, it means overwhelming the enemy's army and taking ownership of their cities. For others, it's becoming a celebrated artist whose works are lauded around the world.

    For others still, it may be escaping the dreaded origin of their being, and establishing oneself as an independent, self-sufficient being amidst the crowd of equals, where they're judged by what they do, not what they come from.

    Taking a stand is only valuable and courageous when what you stand for matters to you. Other way lies foolishness and aimlessness. You seem to have an aim, and asking the questions you do makes you no fool.

    8 votes
  4. [2]
    acdw
    Link
    I absolutely don't think it's cowardly! And it's your name, either way. It'd be a little weird if you used something like "J.K. Rowling" as your pen name, but other than that, if you want to go...

    I absolutely don't think it's cowardly! And it's your name, either way. It'd be a little weird if you used something like "J.K. Rowling" as your pen name, but other than that, if you want to go for it, go for it! It'll still be you writing the stuff, which is what's important.

    ... well, now I'm thinking of it, there are some instances where using a pen name might be not the best idea. For example, I remember Yi-Fen Chou, who was really Michael Derrick Hudson, who used a Chinese pen name specifically to get published and then selected for Best American Poetry. So it's slightly more complicated than just, "go for it!", but not much more so -- mostly, don't be a jerk, right?

    3 votes
    1. dubteedub
      Link Parent
      Yeah, Marvel Comics had a simillar issue where an editor was using a pseudonym to portray themselves as a Japanese person when they were actually a white guy...

      Yeah, Marvel Comics had a simillar issue where an editor was using a pseudonym to portray themselves as a Japanese person when they were actually a white guy

      https://www.theverge.com/2017/12/18/16792070/marvel-editor-in-chief-akira-yoshida-cebulski-cultural-appropriation

      I also saw a recent popular twitter user @ElleOhHell who deleted their account after they revealed they were not actually a woman, but a white dude as well.

      https://twitter.com/TheDreamGhoul/status/1099363727923650561?s=09

      1 vote
  5. knocklessmonster
    Link
    People do it in other mediums with no problem (Actors, musicians, artists), it's not too different to do it in writing, and usually doesn't cause problems.

    People do it in other mediums with no problem (Actors, musicians, artists), it's not too different to do it in writing, and usually doesn't cause problems.

    1 vote