My First Year Writing Under A Pseudonym
Charlie Bleecker is not my real name.
I adopted the pseudonym one year ago. And now I’ve never felt more confident to call myself a writer.
Here is a mailbag of commonly asked questions regarding pseudonyms:
What made you decide to write under a pseudonym?
I wrote under my real name for years. And I got in trouble for it. My sister accused me of lying, a college friend unfriended me on Facebook, and my boss told me to “please not write about the high school field hockey players” I was coaching.
It was suffocating.
My fingers hovered above the keyboard. Was it okay to write this? Would I offend somebody? Would they judge me? Think less of me? Would I get fired?
Writing under a pseudonym would allow me to say all the things I was burning to say. There would be no more hesitation, no more doubt, no more fear.
What are the benefits of writing under a pseudonym?
- Freedom to write whatever I want. There’s nothing holding me back anymore. There’s no topic I shy away from. I can write about my prenuptial agreement, stealing adderall from my friend, the time I accidentally ate a bunch of mushrooms, what sex was like with a narcissist, and why I don’t speak to my brother.
- Joy when I sit down at my computer. Writing is fun. When you can truly write exactly what you’re thinking, it’s liberating and therapeutic. I think, and then I write.
What are the drawbacks of writing under a pseudonym?
- Starting from zero. When your shiny, new pseudonym is born, you can’t share it with friends and family. Audience growth is slow. … But writing under a pseudonym is a long term investment. If you stick with it, you’ll find your tribe of true fans.
- A very small support system. While there are some essays I’d like to keep private, there are some I’d like to share with my loved ones. I want them to see what I’ve been up to and I want them to be proud of what I’m writing. … But that’s my ego talking. I want my loved ones to tell me I’m a great writer. Writing under a pseudonym reminds me why I really write - which is because it feels good and it allows me to work through personal struggles and hopefully provide value to others.
How did you choose the name?
Growing up I hated my name. And I loved boys' names for girls. (Joey from Dawson’s Creek was a favorite.) So I told everyone to call me Charlie.
It didn’t stick. But I’ve always loved the name.
I lived in New York City for nine months and always thought there was something magical about downtown. Bleecker Street was a cool street. The name always made me smile. After writing a screenplay about a family with the last name Bleecker, I grew even more fond of the name.
So Charlie Bleecker was born.
When will you reveal your identity?
I committed to writing under a pseudonym for one year. Now that I’m approaching that mark, I have no plans to reveal my identity any time soon.
If anyone discovers my writing and my real name, that’s okay. I stand behind my writing. But I have no reason to reveal my real name. And I don’t want to jeopardize all my momentum.
What’s the hardest part about writing under a pseudonym?
Zoom and email!
I have two separate accounts. Even when I log out of Zoom under my real name, it doesn’t always make the switch to Charlie. I can’t preview what my name will be when I log in so I hold my breath waiting to be let into the room. If my real name pops up I either log out immediately or gasp and quickly rename myself. It’s very stressful!
I’ve learned that I have to open a new incognito window every single time. A second incognito window is not incognito to the first.
And it’s difficult to keep up with two separate email accounts. I don’t check my real name as much as my pseudonym and I’m so backed up I don’t know when I’ll ever get back to inbox zero.
What’s your advice to someone who is going to write under a pseudonym?
Don’t tell anyone your real name. Or tell as few people as possible. I wish I only told my husband.
I enrolled in an online writing course under my real name but was making the transition to my pseudonym. Now all the connections I made in that cohort know my real name. It makes me feel a little exposed. I’d rather they knew me as Charlie.
Then, I cold emailed a few people to introduce myself and felt it was dishonest to not disclose my real name, so I revealed it to a handful of people in the beginning. I didn’t need to do that. I could have said Charlie was a pseudonym without revealing my identity.
There are about 20 people who know my real name. That’s 19 too many.
If you have any questions about writing under a pseudonym, DM me on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you.