How a Pen Name Can Help You Write Like a Boss
Remember making prank calls? Faking a foreign language on an elevator just to get a rise out of the other riders? Donning an unnecessary eye patch? Packing up all of your worldly possessions in a bandana, tying it to a broomstick and declaring with a flourish that you were moving out?
Whatever your affectation or farce du jour, tap into it. Get in character – or get into someone else’s. Let Twitter, or some real-life antics, become your muse - the cure for your stale writing syndrome.
Create a method profile, wherein you can quickly change the profile image and bio to mirror your inspiration of the day – or moment. Don a fake mustache, crutch, or uniform. Or, take a stroll around town with a fanciful cane, a trumped up accent and engage strangers.
Then tweet about it from your method madness Twitter profile. Use the reactions of unsuspecting tweeps to the faux-you to move your writing from stale and stagnant to fresh, freaky, or downright funky. Think of it as a revolving door, or temporary insanity, whatever works.
Fake it and see which of your personas make the cut for public consumption.
Tomorrow allows room for another image and bio entirely.
Who cares what people think about what you write? It’s not you doing the talking — or free-styling — it’s Ivana Hump, Monsieur Monocle, or that peg-legged fellow in the crow’s nest, whose parrot has a freakishly foul mouth and a Cockney accent.
By getting into character, you can impose method to what may otherwise look like madness, or worse, an exercise in self-indulgence. In the words of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, “Let your freak flag fly.” Keep it real — you know: “Free your mind and the rest will follow” (insert gratuitous sexy femme silhouette) in the spirit of the less immortal, yet spot-on, lyrics of eighties girl-group En Vogue.
Writers have assumed nom-de-plumes since, well, as long as there have been plumes. Anonymity can liberate your mind and free your writing from mediocrity.
But, only fiction writers use pen names. Right? Wrong.
Back in the day of the Bard, female writers used male pseudonyms when they submitted their work for publication so publishers and editors would take them more seriously. If you remember your history, the culture of the middle ages, and societal mores even long after, frowned upon the notion of women working outside the realm of household (or estate) management.
Even men used pen names when writing about controversial topics. They wrote literary criticisms, talked frankly about dysfunction in the politics and culture of the day, through the power of their pens and the protection of their faux personas. Writers of both genders used closely guarded pen names when they turned their purple pens to erotica.
Clearly, writing behind the veil of a pseudonym has always served many functions — some practical, some whimsical, some inspirational–paramount: LIBERTE’! Go on and get some – liberty.
Modern Day Patrons of the Pen Name
One of the masters of spreading sparkle and shine in the online content world, Brian Clark, uses a pen name. Not sure we’ll divulge his actual pen name here – find out for yourself like we had to. While we know Clark uses a certain nom-du-plume for posts with a little more [ahem] edge than readers can find in his amazing work on the Copyblogger site, we suspect other online powerhouses may use them as well.
Perhaps that tantalizingly odd, strangely enticing and interesting new twitter follower is really Pete Cashmore using a nom-de-plume to pull himself out of a techno-genius writing slump.
Or maybe that sweet, smart, avian-like girl chatting you up lately on Google Plus wears boxers and writes best selling youth fiction in real life. Anyone ever hear of an author named James Patterson, famous for his Maximum Ride series for teens and numerous best-selling adult thriller novels? Course you have.
It’s Not About Dishonesty
Don’t make the mistake of using a pen name to dupe your friends or accomplish any sophomoric sleuthing. They’ll find you out, probably take offense, and never return to the full trust relationship you enjoyed before the indelible blight of betrayal appeared. Use your method madness profile to talk to those with whom you wouldn’t otherwise connect. Ask bold questions and discuss topics that would make the real you cower behind the sofa.
Then write about it. Like a boss.
Photo credits: staugustineduckrace dot com, bbc dot co dot uk (with permission)