Monthly Archives: May 2010

Dilemmas of a writer: pen names

I have a dilemma.

I’m soon to start entering short stories for competitions. I already have a writer’s blog, and a Facebook page. This is not because I am spending more time thinking about being published than I am about working on my novel. No. Because that would be disobeying the wisdom of Bradley Whitford:
Want to write more than you want to be a writer. Life is too challenging for external rewards to sustain us. The joy is in the journey.
And also because, I do actually love writing. I don’t always love it when I sit down. There are moments when I fling my pen down in frustration; sentences I start over and over again; things I just can’t work out how to describe so they come alive; characters who refuse to be distinctive; emotions that are hard to put into words.
But usually about thirty minutes in, sometimes a lot more, and sometimes never, there comes that moment: the writer’ high. It stays with me all day. Runners are probably best placed to understand what it is. It makes me want to continue writing, and it inspires me to come back again and again.
So mostly I think about writing. But at some point, I’m going to have to settle the issue of my pen name. (I’ve never been that happy with my own surname, not least because it’s difficult to spell correctly.) I currently have one that consists of my own first name and a borrowed surname. I’m happy with it. But recently I’ve been pondering using a different first name – something that might flow better. Something like Anna or Melissa. (Donna may be taking certain obsessions a little far.)
Here’s the thing, though. If people know me as, say, Amy Scott (which was my pen name in my teens, but I’m ditching that one, or at least for now), then Amy is the name that I’ll have to respond to, assuming there are things like interviews and book signings,, and that would feel odd, because I’m not used to doing that. I would feel a fraud. Just changing my surname wouldn’t do that; I’ve spent half my life imagining myself with different ones anyway. But somehow changing my first name feels like changing the essence of me, and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that.
Although, in a way, it’s no different from acting, is it? I can re-invent myself, slip into a new persona, which could be fun. Oddly, I would have no qualms whatsoever about replying to an email under a different name. But face to face? I don’t know.
Any writers out there? What do you do about this?