Should you have a pen name?

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The question of adopting a pen name comes up for every aspiring author, freelance writer and blogger. Many who spend a lot of time online do not always feel comfortable using their real name. They do not want to bring added attention to their families. Some fear they are opening themselves up to more online undesirables that may intend some type of harm or slander. Many authors decide to write on sensitive material and find using a pen name gives them the ability to relate that material without bringing undo attention on themselves or family. Perhaps some find the idea a bit fun and decide to name the persona behind their writing.

When I first entered an online forum many years ago, I used a fake name. Then I began to blog and used a fun name that made it obvious it was fake. I used Ida Red and my blog has “apple” in the title so I thought that was a cute idea. As time went on and I began to freelance, I used my real name since it was a job. This may not sound all that confusing to some; to be a few different people online. However, I soon grew tired of the Hannah Montana routine and decided to go by my real name. I am not particularly fond of my last name so I have regretted that decision. Yet, I found it just plain easier to go by my real name. I am far from famous so I could go back and change that but it hardly seems the trouble for vanity purposes.

Then one day, I uploaded images to my Flickr account. The images were not set to private as I normally do. I am not a photographer by trade so I saw no reason to have family photos in public mode. The pictures I uploaded were from a family trip. Someone commented on my photos. This person then private messaged me and asked me if I lived in the area of the pictures because he also lives in that area. There was more but let’s just say it was creepy. My name is also associated with that account.

So, should you get a pen name? That will depend on your level of comfort with exposing yourself to countless people online or in the real world if you publish a book. If you aspire to be Stephen King or H.G. Wells, then pen name or not, you will be in the public eye. If you simply want a modest blogging career, I highly recommend it. Think about where you intend to be, what you are writing about, and who you expose (children, family, friends), before making that decision. But please, whatever you do, use a realistic name because Ida Red or Mr. Fantastic will not be seen as personal enough to garner the respect and attention of an audience. No one minds a pen name but it can be hard to take a made up name seriously.

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About Richele McFarlin

Richele is a Christian homeschooling mom to four children, writer and business owner. Her collegiate background is in educational psychology. Although it never prepared her for playing Candyland, grading science, chasing a toddler, doing laundry and making dinner at the same time.

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