Should I Be Afraid to Publish My Name?

Comments 25
Bloody pen
The words have to bleed. If you want to write about what it means to be human. (Image/

Most of you have no idea who I am (and don’t care).

Some of you know my name is Matt.

Fewer still know I’m Matt and I live in Ohio.

And a super-small group of you know my last name or actually know me in real life.

Does it Matter if it Doesn’t Bleed?

I don’t want to be critical of writers who entertain, inform or educate us. Those are great things.

Sometimes I keep it light, too. I’m immature and playful, so it’s often hard for me to leave that out of things I write.

But matters of the heart and mind are what I choose to spend most of my time exploring. I want to be a better person, and I’m sensitive to my flaws. I think it’s hard to be a human being, and it often gets harder in adulthood.

I think a lot of us frolic through childhood blissfully unaware, and then one inevitable day, that first tragic thing happens, rapes our innocence, and then we never get to be that version of ourselves ever again. Those moments take our breath away. They’re really hard. Some people freak out when life is really hard. They become addicts. They lose jobs. They have affairs. They commit suicide.

Awful things. Things I used to observe and think: What the hell is wrong with those people?

And the answer—in a macro-human sense—is: Nothing. They’re just people, and you can’t know how unmitigated fuckness feels until it’s stabbing your heart and mind mercilessly while you sob in the fetal position.

If you’re going to write about matters of the heart and mind, I don’t think there’s a lot of room for half-assing it. This is real life. When you strip away everything superficial about our lives (the jobs, houses, money, cars) the only things left are the people we love and our mental and emotional state of being when we wake up in the morning.

Mostly, we take this stuff for granted. Mostly, we feel just fine, with pockets of frustration and pockets of fun. Mostly, our relationships aren’t suffering, and people we love aren’t dying, and we’re not afraid of sickness or death ourselves.

No matter how many times a day we hear about some crazy-scary thing happening, or about some tragedy, or how many people around us get sick and die, we STILL just carry on in a That will never happen to me! sort-of way.

But bad things can and will happen. They test our character. They test our faith. They test our mettle.

And then we wallow and despair. Or we demonstrate courage. Or we climb our mountains with joyful hope. Often we do all of those things over a long period of time while we fight to find ourselves again.

THESE are the things that really matter to me. These are the things I want to write about.

I’m afraid of writing about those things, and then having my boss read them. I’m afraid of all the guys I work with, and imagining them laughing and snickering and calling me a pussy behind my back while they read about how I used to cry a lot after my wife left.

I’m afraid of my mom, or grandma, or aunts and uncles reading about how I lost my virginity or about doubting my faith sometimes or just all the bad words I use.

I’m afraid of my son reading it someday and being ashamed of his father. I’m afraid of other parents at his small Catholic school reading it and judging me. Even worse? I’m afraid of my son’s classmates reading it and punishing him socially for it.

Within the first few weeks of blogging, I stumbled on How To Be A TV Star by James Altucher and it completely changed the way I thought about first-person writing.

In the piece, he wrote about how he lied to get on television because he was afraid of flying after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. His boss was asking him to fly to a business meeting, and he needed a way out, so he lied to investor and TV personality Jim Cramer about how much investment money he managed.

He wrote this, and I’ve been hero-worshipping him ever since:

“Once Jim asked me to go on I couldn’t stop shaking,” he wrote. “I knew I was a fraud and I was finally going to prove it to everyone I went to high school with.

“I assumed they would all be gathered at the same place, eating popcorn and laughing at me.”

After retelling his experience on Cramer’s show, he said this:

“Afterwards two things happened. My dad wrote me an email congratulating me. Since we were in a fight and I tend to avoid people I’m fighting, I didn’t respond to him. Then he had a stroke and died.”

Something about it just slapped me across the face. Penetrated my soul.

THIS. This is how I want to write, I thought.

It’s Just About Time

Whether I wait until I publish my book, agree to let other publications use my first and last name, or finally break the seal here, the day I start publishing my full name draws nearer.

I met an editor at The Good Men Project who charitably praises my writing and has asked me to contribute regularly. I’ve agreed.

He has been kind enough to let me keep my last name off the work for a while.

My first post (repurposed content from this blog to start with) should run this week. It will be interesting to see what happens afterward.

In the meantime, there is only one way to write anything related to the mind, heart and soul, and have it matter: Honestly.

I hope I’m tough enough and brave enough to do so even after taking off that final mask and submitting to the judgment of internet commenters everywhere.

Even if those people can affect my professional future.

Or even if they used to change my diapers and tuck me into bed at night.

25 thoughts on “Should I Be Afraid to Publish My Name?”

  1. It depends. I’ve always used some form of my real name— many places, I use my real name. In any case, except for one place I’ve never put any effort into hiding behind a user name. That one place is Reddit, and the reason I use a totally different name there is because the place has a serious problem with brigading and doxxing. Most places don’t, so I don’t worry about it.

    Every person has his or her own reasons for using the online names that they do, and it’s not for me to judge.

    1. Simply put, if you type my first and last name into Google, this blog is nowhere to be found. You’ll maybe find a few old news stories I wrote a long time ago.

      But once I start using my first and last name on this blog and in other publications, it will totally be the first thing people find.

      I’m sensitive to that fact.

    1. Right. It doesn’t take advanced hacking skills to figure out who I am.

      It’s mostly about what people find when they search my name online, and how my family feels about it all, that breeds nervousness.

      1. I agree with Leslie – let it go! Your writing is really good and really helpful to people!! I think that factor totally overshadows the fact that you swear, smoked pot in college, and post some hilarious, or what you call immature, posts!!! You help people gain insight and clarity, and that’s all that matters! Besides, if people are standing around the water cooler laughing about you crying when your wife left, then that says more about them than it does about you for sure!! They cry too, and to make fun of it is something we like to call reaction formation!!

  2. People can be cruel to other people to make themselves feel better. You might consider using a version of your name, not necessarily your full name. I know someone who’s name is Regina and she uses Regin when she signs her posts. Maybe something like that would do unless you’re set on using your full name. In the end, I think the people who really matter, will be proud of you. Your insight and honesty are really appreciated. Your posts have given me a different perspective on my husband and life in general. Best of luck! 🙂

    1. I don’t see any way of writing a credible non-fiction book without putting my name on it. And once that happens, it would be foolish of me to not try to sell that book.

      So, instead of intentionally NOT trying to market or promote any of this stuff, I’ll need to switch gears and actively try to.

      Should be interesting.

      1. I don’t know. It’s up to you, and you’ll decide when it’s time to reveal your (full) name, and then, the rest of the world be damned. You can always use a pseudonym (I mean it was good enough for Mark Twain and Dr. Seuss), but then, everybody also knows their real names now too. So, good luck. I’m glad you’re getting attention for your writing, and I think the exploring you do in your writing helps you, and others as well.

  3. Whether I ever know your last name is irrelevant. You’re a damn good writer who’s struggled with many of the same types of issues that I have, you have a great sense of humor, and reading your stuff makes sense and makes things a little bit better for me. You are already a successful writer – there you never seem to fall short. Onward and upward, Matt!

    1. Really cool of you to take time to leave this comment, Alan. Evidently, this isn’t the first post you’ve ever read from me.

      Thank you for being a part of it, and taking a minute to encourage me. It helps, sir.

      1. I agree with the comment about bravery below. Thanks for being brave enough to share yourself with us, even the things that are most difficult to put out there publicly. You’ve no doubt helped people along the way.

  4. Do it Matt! Brilliant! And you’ll do it when you do it, not a moment sooner, so you’ll be ready to face the shit storm because the cool thing is, it’s our own thoughts of judgement and shame about ourselves that’s the problem.

    We are all living with our own shameful mistakes. The guys at work calling you a pussy are pussies because they’re not dick enough to call you pussy to your face. Everyone lost their virginity in some goofy way they’ll never have the courage to share, and if they did have the courage to do it, the result is an easing of another persons embarrassment about their own experience, because by sharing the apparent foolishness of our humanity, we actually help each other love our precious tenderness. EVERYONE has bouts of a crisis of faith, that’s why it’s called faith.

    And children are these beautiful versions of humanity that always return over and over again to love and cherish their parents, not matter what, all they want is to do that. By being courageous and not letting the critical shit in your head stop you, you are being the kind of dad your son will always be proud of.

    1. And in a moment of beautiful irony, you do for me what I know honest writing does for others.

      Thanks so much, Dorothy. Always a pleasure to hear from you. 🙂

  5. completelyinthedark

    It takes real courage to be yourself. You’ve already displayed that bravery in your posts.

    Had an old friend mention to me he read my blog. I asked him what he thought (this rarely happens: folks read me but say nothing, or it’s I don’t ask and they don’t tell. Weird, I know). He said, “I think you’re really brave. Putting your life out there for all to read.”

    Which surprised me because I’m sorta writing mostly for myself. *I* want to understand. Readers are something of an afterthought (a well-considered afterthought, but second place at any rate).

    When you publish your book, it should be under your full name of course. You may need to say goodbye to people you’ve known for years, hello to others you’ll know for the rest of your life.

    It’s a risk because very few people do it.

    Keep going, my friend! cheers Mike

  6. Thank you for getting it, Mike. You’ve been encouraging and supportive for a long time. I appreciate it much more than I say to you.

    Thank you so much for all of it.

  7. Hi Matt,

    I just got a new job that I’m really excited about. I would like to actually use my LinkedIn account to network with people in hopes of learning new things that I can apply to my job or that could help me expand my interests or hobbies.

    I started drafting my profile, but I’m not sure how much I want to reveal about myself on the web with my name and photo? I want to be myself and share a few personal stories behind my interests. I’m just not sure what boundaries to set? I’m too hung up on what people might think about me. And I’m afraid of trolls and creepers. Do you have any advice?

  8. Here’s my two cents: as someone who writes publicly, the question isn’t whether you have the fortitude to reveal yourself as the person who wrote all the posts leading up to today…that only takes one moment of courage and then (possibly) a few conversations that may or may not be difficult with people who love you and will eventually get over it….the real question is – do you think you will write with as much authenticity from the moment you go public with your full name as you have under the safety of the anonymity? Perhaps. Think about how your writing about your ex may or may not have changed once you knew she was reading on the regular. I can say for a fact, that with everyone knowing who I am, I hedge on almost every post. . . to protect everyone else (my kids, my ex-in-laws, etc….). Maybe you “should” use less F-bombs anyway (I promise I am not saying that). Maybe making the leap to this next level of authorship requires this change. Maybe you will find more liberation and write even more deeply. Only you can know that. “How will publishing under your real name affect the writing from here forward?” <– that is the real question on table. (either way, I'm a fan to the end).

  9. I put my TV on mute to read this. That’s something. I got to “you can’t know how unmitigated fuckness feels until it’s stabbing your heart and mind mercilessly while you sob in the fetal position.”, and I changed my surroundings to silence and read with devotion.

    I read “But bad things can and will happen. They test our character. They test our faith. They test our mettle.” and it reminded me of the time my ex-husband demanded to know, “do you not have the intestinal fortitude to continue?” And I was all, “f*ck you, battle on.”

    Your words, your writing, totally fantastic, but it’s hard to attach your real-life name to your real-life life. If real life is full of writers who can appreciate the craft in your stories here, then there’s nothing to worry about. But real life isn’t a fairy tale, and judgement abounds.

    Good luck with your decision. I am Gypsie Georgia. Please don’t call me that. Though I may have taken some liberties with the Georgia part (call me GG).

  10. edit some content out…some of the hardcore things you do not want your son to see or know about until he is an adult and then you can make a decision on when or if to unveil it. i believe some of your fears are founded, but i like the reply of losing some to gain others, as it will certainly be true. people move onto other things and individual issues lose their shock factor and their uncertainty, once they are exposed to the light of day. people who know you and accept you will not care but people on the periphery of your life and your sons or those who presume to know you and make judgement, don’t need to be fed from the fodder you will provide to them. the entire story you share has value but the loss of some content will not change the story line. i personally would not put it all out right away.

  11. Right?! It’s a tough one. The kid(s), the ex/spouse… I write differently knowing my name is on everything and that my people are connected to me, too, but I don’t know if I regret it most days. I’m not sure I write worse or less truthfully (at least in the meta) knowing it’s connected to me. Isn’t there a saying, character is what you do when no one is watching? I’ve always taken it to mean, be the you in private you’d be on the stage. You seem to be a character-full self. Except perhaps for a bit of “scrubbing” (where it comes to your son or your ex) you seem pretty ready for showtime. Good luck.

  12. I do not use my real name in my writing, not in this blog and not in the other blog I write. I will not ever do so, though this name is a form of my real name unless you know me on a very personal level you would never put it together and tie me to my blog in the real world. I do this because I write very personal first person, I write erotic poetry and even worse I write left-wing politics.

    Any one of the above could do me great harm down here in red state Texas. Could kill me professionally. Even my Facebook account isn’t my whole and true name.

    It is a decision Matt. A choice to make.

  13. I blog under my middle name and keep my identity hidden. I feel that I am more open to speak honestly and openly as I would leave things out if I knew people in my day-to-day life were reading it.

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