I am setting up a square space website because I want to be well-represented in the ether. It makes me feel like an adult. That’s not the point of this. Anyway, I’m clicking Yes I’ll try a free trial – which we all know isn’t actually free because who actually remembers to call and cancel, I mean, really – and it asks me to create an account. I sat staring at the first two fields, my thumbs poised and ready to fire: First and Last name. And I hover. Frozen.
The cursor blinks at me. Tapping its foot. It warps and wiggles as it transforms into a cursor-sized girl. Let’s say 10 years old. Mary Janes and ruffle socks. A pink corduroy jumper and a headband holding heroism pigtails back. She leans against the field bar. Crosses her arms.
-First and Last name? Easy. Sam Callahan.
-Whoa whoa whoa!! Sam Callahan??? This page is serious. This is It. You decided long ago that your SAG name would be Sam Callahan and your nom de plume would be Samantha Devon.
-But what if this is It, also? The other It…?
-What other “it?”
-What if this is all I do. What if this is all I’m good at. Wouldn’t I want it to be my real name? My superstar name? This was all thought up when I was convinced I’d reach Golden Celebrity status before ever thinking of writing a book. Who wants to waste their Best Name on their secondary fame, that may not even come!
-You know that being a famous actor is way sexier than famous writer. And you know Sam Callahan is a sexier name. Samantha Devon is an intellectual and a poet. Sam Callahan is a–is a —
-But you are so proud of your family name, just like me.
-Wouldn’t you want to see that name – Your Name – on the lists of the New York Times? On the bestsellers’ section at McNally Jackson’s?(~support local book stores!~)
-What’s the point of a pseudonym anyway?
-Lots of reasons… Protection, is one.
–beat. She scowls, takes a breath. She paces along the field box– Inner demons, I guess. Publishing anonymously tricks us into thinking no one will read it. If no one knows it’s you, it’s not as embarrassing.
-It is terrifying, isn’t it?
-Mortifying. –beat– Your name is your identity. For most of us. Our name = us. Our sense of self. You see your name written, you recognize it. Not in your mind. But in your fingertips. In your belly button and your ears. Little tugs and glows that remind us who we are. I am Sam Callahan. I’ve read it, heard it, said it, and embedded it for years and years and years… –takes a breath– …There’s a level of freedom that comes when you write under a Not-Your-Name name. You allow yourself to act rashly. To pursue vehemently. Explore reckl— –stops– you allow yourself… to be completely honest in the moment. Raw on the page. When you remove yourself – your Self; your Name – you remove the shame, guilt, and visceral fear. Perhaps most importantly, you remove The Pride. With The Pride out, you are more open to what makes for a well-rounded character and an interesting story: flaws, fuck ups, and failures.