Should I Be Afraid to Publish My Name?, Vol. 2

Comments 34

I had never considered using a pen name. Not really.

I don’t know why.

Maybe vanity. Maybe I wanted my name out there so everyone I went to high school with would see that I’d finally done something with my life.

Maybe credibility. Because I write a first-person narrative in a pseudo-journalistic style, I thought putting my name on it was the only real option.

I finally asked myself the question: What would really be so bad about using a pseudonym?

There are only two, and both are stupid:

  1. Vanity. It’s stupid because no one from high school gives a shit, and if they did it wouldn’t matter.
  2. Money. It’s stupid because writers don’t make any real money, and it’s foolish to assume I ever will. There are logistical challenges related to receiving checks, banking and paying taxes from money earned writing under a fake name. But if I was ACTUALLY making money from something I published, wouldn’t the hassle be worth it? Of course it would. But I probably won’t, so who cares?

I found some online resources addressing this topic. I read them and started warming up to the idea.

The internet marketer in me knows having my own URL would be beneficial in the long term. I could make sure whatever name I chose had an available web address.

I found a random last-name generator. I’ve been playing with it.

The first one I liked and researched ended up being the name of a gay porn actor. So… probably not.

Step one, pick a bunch of names I like. Matt and Matthew are both options.

Step two, research the name to make sure there isn’t another famous one.

Step three, find a sensible URL that’s available (much harder to do in 2015 than it used to be, and picking anything but a .com seems like a poor choice, though I could see that changing someday).

It would help protect my son. His mother. My friends and family.

It would protect my professional interests that don’t involve writing.

I’d like to tell you I would be the same amount of honest no matter what, but the truth is, writing under a different name would probably keep the bravery and honesty quotient higher.

I’m coming around to the idea. And it’s kind of fun thinking of names.

Do I want to be Matthew Hawkins? Or Matt Shaw? Matthew Church? Matt Jackson? Matthew J. Warren? Matt Keller? Matt Watts? Mateo Juarez? Matt Chase? Matthew R. Hendrix? M. W. Hood?

The possibilities are endless.

What I haven’t settled on is just how much any of it matters.

I only know erring on the side of caution regarding those I love and care about would seem the wisest course. And I find myself (surprisingly!) leaning that way.

As always, I’m interested in your opinions and how you feel about it.

A penny for your thoughts. An imaginary penny, of course.

Sort of fits the occasion.

34 thoughts on “Should I Be Afraid to Publish My Name?, Vol. 2”

  1. That is weird, someone told me your name was Smalls…

    Have fun picking out your writing name!

    1. A total misnomer, as I’m quite familiar with both s’mores AND the Great Bambino.

      I promise to have fun thinking of names. Thank you!

    1. I have had four years of Spanish between high school and college and NOT learned to speak it whatsoever, but I do roll my Rs like an old pro.

      Of that, you can be sure.

  2. Though I have revealed my name, I have been stalked relentlessly so I now regret it. If I were to write a fabulous novel, well yeah, gotta use my name! Good post!

    1. I’m sorry to hear that. I don’t understand people. I hope it wasn’t/isn’t scary.

      Thank you for checking it out!

        1. At the risk of sounding both sexist and presumptuous, I am under the impression women have this problem infinitely more than men.

          I’m sure the female population has its bad eggs, just like any other mathematically relevant group, but bad men wreak havoc, sometimes a frightening amount.

          And I tend to be able to avoid them for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I’m not female.

          Whatever the situation may be, I’m very sorry you have to deal with it.

  3. hmm… is that really you in the gravatar? are you considering a pen-pic as well? i’m gonna be sad if that’s not really you. it’s like watching a film after reading the book and having to change all my mental imagery….

    1. Yes. That’s really me.

      If I was going to use a pen-pic, I’d have gone for something more attractive, I assure you.

        1. I was being serious!

          6’3″. Chiseled jaw. Nice cheek bones. The ability to grow facial hair. Maybe some rad Fabio locks.

          Turns out, my Weird Science machine doesn’t work at all. Even when I’m wearing a bra on my head.

          1. you had me til “fabio locks”… haa! but deep down inside you know that being YOU beats the hell out of any of that.

            i am curious why the photo doesn’t seem to be a privacy concern for you…

          2. Because I’m not REALLY afraid of people knowing who I am.

            I mostly would just prefer to not have Google crank out all my first-person writing as the thing people see when looking me up.

            Business clients. Parents of my son’s friends. Stuff like that.

  4. I have a problem using my real name if I want to make money, I guess. See step #2. Do you have any idea how many famous “Michael McMillan”s there are floating around? Turns out there’s no shortage, and I’m bound to run into a problem with one or another of them.

    I did a Google search—- turns out you have to go five or six pages of hits before you get to anything I did. Before that— there’s a St. Louis alderman, a guy who wrote a book about how to make paper airplanes, a couple of eggheads who wrote books I won’t even pretend to be able to understand and I don’t know what all else. No wanted men though– so I have that going for me, which is nice.

    So— putting my name to my writings is a bit of a challenge.

    1. I’m inexplicably excited about the guy who wrote the paper airplane book.

      I hope he had some advanced fighter jet techniques in there and not just the same two everyone knows how to make already.

  5. In this day and age; unless you feel compelled to for some logistical reason…I’d err on the side of caution. If it will help protect your family I say use an assumed name…better safe than sorry!
    No reason you can’t write under your own in future if it becomes important for some reason.
    We all appreciate you…no matter what your last name is!

    1. Thank you very much, Robin.

      I’ve been looking at it hard for all sides. And I believe I’ve arrived at that same conclusion.

  6. Picking a name is always very fun, the one you see displayed on the left here is not my real name but it is very deeply meaningful to me but I am really one of the only ones who truly understands why.
    And yes, it helps keep my writing honest, so I would personally encourage you to keep your real name private and your pen name meaningful. 🙂

    1. Thank you very much for taking time to read this and leave a comment.

      I wish I could explain why I felt so certain I had to publish under my full name.

      I don’t think I do. I don’t think I will. And I think everyone will be better off for it.

  7. Stay anonymous. It’s too easy for someone to get information about you, and make things out to be that really aren’t…just my opinion as an IT professional.

    1. I appreciate that feedback. I don’t think anyone who REALLY wants to figure out who I am will have any trouble.

      That concerns me less than the other way around. People who meet me in real life getting all of my personal writing piled on them if they decide to poke around Google.

      Thank you for taking a minute to comment. I appreciate it very much.

  8. I read two days ago that ‘Dr Seuss’ used that pseudonym as a temporary name for writing children’s books as that was not his intended genre for his real self to be associated with. He was ‘waiting’ for inspiration to write the ‘next great novel’ when he would then use his real name. Of course, that never happened and his children’s books were indeed genius.

    1. That’s a good story! I didn’t know it either.

      It would seem Dr Seuss did well for both himself and children’s bookshelves.

      I must have at least six or seven Dr Seuss books on my son’s shelf, and I’m pretty sure both his mother and I had all of the same ones.

      Quite a legacy. (And business.)

      Always nice to hear from you!

  9. Funnily enough I’m just writing a post about pseudonyms myself, so perfect timing with your post, so nice to get another perspective while I’m writing mine.
    I always planned to write under a pen name myself and I do have a couple lined up which I might use in the future. However, when a writing tutor put a piece of mine up online, seeing my name “up in lights” for the first time was great. I don’t know if that means writing under my own name is a matter of ego for me but I would like to think that it is more a case of my name and my writing fitting together.

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Matt Fray

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