What’s in a name?

I thought a lot about writing online, under real names and under pseudonyms. I wanted–needed–to write anonymously in my first space. That blog was about processing my loss and struggles to get pregnant and it wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to share it with the people in my life, but that I felt they’d fault me for needing to even say it. So I wrote under an assumed name, to protect myself and the people who loved me.

I created an identity for myself in that space, under that name. I don’t think I realized how much it meant to me until I decided to let it go.

I also tried to write under my real name. I created a space and invited those I knew to read there. But as a teacher I felt trapped posting under my real name. There was so much I couldn’t say when I knew my students might find it. I felt silenced by their maybe some day searching for me.

So I created this new space, under a third name. I thought I understood my motives for shedding my original anonymous identity and starting fresh, but as I embark on the actual shedding, I’m not so sure.

Yesterday I started commenting under my new nom de plum. In the comment boxes of the blogs I’ve read for years I erased my old identity and typed in my new one. Who is this person I’m letting go? Who is this person I’m creating in her place?

We can never present all of ourselves in any one place or with any one person. In the first few years writing on my anonymous blog, I believed the woman portrayed was the more accurate representation, a more honest account than what I presented to the real world. Over time I came to understand that she was not a clearer reflection of who I was, just a window into a certain part of me I didn’t feel I could share anywhere else.

I think that ultimately I’m leaving that persona behind because those parts of myself don’t need to be shared as much anymore. I can incorporate those pieces into a greater whole, which I hope will give them more perspective.

I believed my old space was borne of honesty, authenticity and truth–and I hope that it was–but I never recognized that behind all of it was an overwhelming need that I couldn’t control. I was driven to write there, and not always for the right reasons; fear colored a lot of those words. I hope to come to this space with more deliberate intention, to be motivated by forces more productive than hurt or fear.

Erasing my old moniker in familiar comment boxes can feel like starting over, and it is in a way, but I know better than to think I can leave the person I was behind. I invited everyone who knew me there to read me here and they won’t forget who I was before.

And honestly? I don’t really want them to.

What does your writing identity mean to you? Have you ever considered changing it?

7 Comments

  1. I honestly have a hard time with the name change, but maybe that’s just b/c I’m afraid of change sometimes? I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually, but since I already know you as 2 other names, it definitely makes my head spin a bit to try to wrap my mind around a 3rd….but then that’s all about me, and that’s not why YOU chose to change. 🙂

    I’ve always blogged under Josey, but sometimes I worry it’s searchable (just b/c it’s not very common). Then I think…meh… you’ve have to be trying really hard to find me to connect my first name with my blog that has no identifiable information, and if you do, so be it. I think it’s a good reminder to me that everything I blog about is potentially “findable” any way, just because it’s on the internet, so it keeps me in check a little more than I would be otherwise, which is probably a good thing.

  2. I blog under my real name, so I can’t imagine not using it. But I have wondered how you’d feel about a new name, and in our house, I’ll always refer to you as E. That’s how B knows you when I share with him what you wrote on some occasions.

    I think a new name is a fresh new start, and it seems you’ve wanted that!

  3. I will be honest, I will really miss your old name and seeing that name in your comments. But I understand why you needed this fresh start and there’s nothing more “new” than a new name! I often wish I blogged anonymously/with a pseudonym, but for me there are a lot of positives to blogging publicly too and I don’t think I could juggle both.

  4. First of all, I didn’t realize I had somehow deleted you from my reader (or maybe never properly added it). Today, I realized and I saw all these posts I never read! Sorry.

    I’ve been having these issues, too. When I first started blogging, I felt like if I was going to be sharing my deepest thoughts, I wanted to be using my real name. I wanted to feel like my readers knew me. And like Josey, I figured nobody would be able to find my blog under my first name only. Since I discovered that was not private enough, on my new blog I am using pseudonyms for everyone. I’m having a hard time switching for comments, though, partly because I’m afraid people won’t recognize me as Herbal Tea, and partly just because it’s not my name. I’m sort of compromising these days – on blogspot, I’m now using Herbal Tea but signing the body of the messages with Deborah. With wordpress, though, I’m still writing Deborah for the name, with my new blog website. Maybe I’ll eventually make the transition!

  5. I think, actually, that you even comment differently under your new nom de plume. 😉 It’s interesting to consider what’s in a name … and what power it has over us.

  6. OK, I’m posting really really late, because I forgot to add your new space to Feedly.

    It’ll take me a while to adjust to your new name, I think. But I’ll manage!

    I blog under a pseudonym (no, Mali is not my real name!) but have also had an article in Huff Post under my real name, linking to my other blogs. My everyday blog (A Separate Life) is pretty much public now. But I do feel a little vulnerable wondering who is reading my infertility blog (which I don’t publicise on FB etc). I really don’t want business contacts finding my No Kidding blog on a simple search. Sigh. It is a dilemma. It doesn’t really stop me saying what I want on No Kidding. But I do hold back on A Separate Life now … just in case. And that makes me a bit sad.

  7. Ok first up.

    Thank god you are ok.

    Slightly melodramatic but the last post that came up in my reader was that you had to stop for a while. And I have been thinking of you so I just put in your old website in the search bar and there were posts directing here that I had missed. How? Why?

    So yay for that. And I miss your writing. A lot.

    Almost two and a half years ago I found out my SIL had found my blog and was reading without telling me. Then I wrote a particularly bitchy post which I subsequently deleted but it was too late she had read it and was offended by it. That’s when I found out she had my blog! I was offended that she was reading without telling me, she should have said something but it made me very wary of writing under my name or using my name anywhere. I have recently opened up my blog to search engines again but it makes me jumpy. I tend to hide all picture posts and I never write my full name but my nickname Chon is enough for people it is patently obvious who I am.

    I find that under an alias I can write more freely. At the moment too many people who know me outside of my blog world read my blog and it stops me from expressing myself. There are times when I want to actually divest some emotion about people or situations but I can’t because it could indirectly (or, directly) refer to them and the “situation”.

    The hardest thing with starting again is reforming friendships. Those that care for you will follow you anywhere but some don’t and restarting these relationships is HARD. You have to start from scratch.

    Glad to hear you are back and well 🙂

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