Last night, a writer friend of mine came over to visit. Though we kept in touch at least once a month through phone calls or e-mails, the anticipation is never the same as would a visit in person. She looked well, I thought. Very well. And I was glad.
We sat in the dining room, the wide picture window behind her, and we started with how the family was, kids, and what not. But as minutes ticked by, and as writers, we knew the inevitable question would come: "How's writing?" And it did.
"I've decided," I told her, "that I'm going to use a pen name."
"A pen name?" With bewildered eyes, she looked at me and asked why.
I think for a minute it threw my friend aback as to why I've made such a decision. I told her that I am not ashamed of my real name, but there are so many things attach to it that I think won't make me free in my writing. Has this ever happened to you when finally you felt brave enough to tell a family member about your passion, and all you got was either silence or a scoff? I got both. And the feeling was, least to say, not pleasant.
"But don't you want to show to these people, to wave in their faces--once you got your novel published--see I did it!" my friend protested. "Because if it was me, it would be sort of a revenge."
I do understand my friend's point and I did air the sentiment to her. But that is not what I am after. What I am after is the purpose of being a writer--the freedom to create. Revenge may be good at first, but I feel it is short lived, and if it is short-lived, would I grow from it? Would it stunt my growth?
For years now, I always wondered why Samuel Clemens changed his name to Mark Twain. I never bothered to look into it until now--minutes before I was to write this post. It said: In Samuel Clemens' case, the call of "mark twain" projected a sense of comfort and safety and good things to anyone who had ever travelled the Mississippi River. This is the image he wanted to call up.
To undress myself of my real name was a decision not to hide in a corner, or be ashamed, or be embarrassed. A.K.A (also known as) meant for me the freedom to write; and like Mark Twain to call up that sense of comfort.