What Do You Call Yourself?
Choosing a pen name is one of the most important things you will do in your beginning stages as a writer. Well, besides actually writing, of course. [And if you aren’t using a pen name, maybe you should consider using one. How would you feel if future employers, relatives, lovers read your writing? If you answered “my material is 100% positive and reflects positively on me and could never be used against me in any way, then this post is probably not for you. If it could in any way reflect negatively on you, or be perceived to reflect negatively on you, though, I recommend using a pen name. You never know who will read what you write, and once it is on the internet it is impossible to get rid of it if you decide you don’t want it up there. Just a heads up.] If you are trying to pick a pen name, here’s a few tips that might help.
1. Pick something you like the sound of.
This name is going to represent you. It will be the first thing that people see when they pick up a piece of your writing. This name is you for however long you choose to use it. And if you pursue a career in writing, you want something that you will want to use for decades in the future.
2. Choose something realistic and timeless.
In the Chicken Soup For The Soul book that I got published in, I read through all of the stories, and tried to decide if my pen name fit among all of these names that may or may not be real. I came across one that sounded like it was chosen by an 8 year-old. I was immediately questioning this person’s credibility and wondering how much I care about their experience. Yes, I judge that quickly, and other people might too. You don’t want anyone to question whether or not you are real or worth reading.
3. It should fit your content.
Depending on what style you write in, the interesting, more modern names might be appropriate. Names have come a long way in the past decade. There is even a baby alive who’s name is Hashtag. Yes, like from Twitter. I don’t know what those parents were thinking… If you’re going to get creatice and use something unique, make sure the name you choose applies not only to one specific thing so you don’t feel boxed in if you decide to go in a different direction. Or if your reference becomes obsolete. Think more classic… maybe a famous writer or favourite musician. Something you won’t get tired of. Err… just don’t copy their name exactly or with tiny twists. Michaela Jackson? No thank you.
4. But don’t get too crazy.
Being creative or quirky isn’t a bad thing. But keep in mind that if you want to be taken seriously, don’t call yourself Roxy Starr. Or Amanda Hugnkiss. Or Jimmy McJimJim. I hope the point has gotten across because that hurt me to write.
5. Need inspiration?
When I was coming up with my pen name, I decided that I wanted to keep my initials. So I went to Google, and found out what the most common “J” first names for girls are, and most common “R” names. And then I strung a couple together and voila! Using your initials might be a good place to start. Or maybe you really like your middle name. My boyfriend uses his middle name as his first name, and the name of the street he grew up on as the last name. So look around, maybe there is something in your life that has really shaped your being. Like that trip to somewhere or that person who was a big influence in your life.
6. Imagine using it.
Write it down. Maybe write down several options. Try out different combinations that you feel flow well together. Introduce yourself to your mirror as your new name. Does it fit with who you are? Does it fit with who you want to be?
7. When in doubt, keep it simple.
The realm of names is gigantic and exciting. If you don’t know what direction to head in, go for something timeless and classic. No one will question whether you really are a Christina, Rebecca, Thomas, or David. You don’t have to be a Jane Doe or a John Smith, but just keep in mind that names have meanings behind them. In fact, looking at the meaning your selected name holds is probably a good idea. I haven’t done that yet, but I’m going to right now.
And at the end when you have something you think is great, go back to the first point, and make sure you really, really like it. Enjoy your new identity. You can now become somebody else. Or you can freely be yourself if you haven’t been before. This name holds great power. Use it wisely.