Writing Under an Assumed Identity

Recently I was asked about this whole pen name thing. “Hey allyah, what’s up with this whole pen name thing?” There’s no big mystery behind it. I’m not in some witness protection program. And I’m not on some celebrity-like star trip. It’s a simple matter of making a name for myself on my own terms.

Here’s the thing. A couple of years ago, when I started to freelance, I decided to google myself just to see what would turn up on my writing. I wasn’t expecting much as I hadn’t published that much yet; I didn’t expect what I found. Not only were there more than 250 people with the same name as me, there were at least four other professional writers showing up all over the place in addition to a journalist. WTF? It’s not as though I have that common of a name.

My dilemma: 1) I didn’t want to be confused with any of them: what if their writing sucked? 2) I didn’t have the time to read all of their stuff to see if it was any good: if I did happen to get “accidentally” confused with any of them and they were good, it could be in my favor. This was proving to be exhausting and more work than it was worth.

So the easiest thing to do was what writers have done for eons: create a pen name and start all over. I googled my new name and discovered to my delight that no one is published under it but me … and hopefully it will stay that way. Let the rock star attitude begin!

Writing at the Speed of Light

I’ll let you in on a little secret: Writing at the speed of light isn’t as hard if you have your technique down cold. Of course, you have to have a grip on the technique, and that’s what trips up most writers in the first place, right?

We have the vision. We’re swimming in creativity. But we’re drowning in our own need for perfection. Word of advice: Let it go. No matter what words you choose, regardless of the voice and tone you select, no matter how carefully you craft the style, you will never achieve perfection. So get over it. If you don’t, you will never get the words on the page written and the work out the door.

The speed of light technique: Focus, write, revise. At some point you have to decide that your work is actually finished and move on.

Editing on the Fly

It never fails. Because I write, everyone assumes I am a walking encyclopedia of grammar know-how. A spelling bee know-it-all. All day long it’s “allyah, how do you spell this” and “allyah, how do you spell that.” “allyah, should I use a colon here, or would an em-dash be better?” Okay, that’s not actually what they say: 1) I write under a pen name, and 2) they certainly know how to spell “this” and “that.” For God sake, I hope so.

The point is, I don’t have a computer chip in my head. I’m not a flowing font of information. Sometimes, my brain gets tired. There’s a lot of useless information that I carry up there, and I don’t have time to edit on the fly, sifting through all that garbage to find the one thing that someone needs on the spot when there’s an easier solution: look it up. And yes, it sucks because it takes time and effort, but what’s the alternative? Crappy copy? I don’t think so.

So use your resources, online or in print, and rely on your own brain instead of running to your “allyah equivalent.” Trust me, she, or he, will thank you some day.

Writing in the Vein of Love

You’ve written the perfect sales pitch. You’ve wowed them with a motivational speech that had them on their feet at the annual company meeting, then turned right around and knocked them off their feet with sensational web copy that drove in the business. You’re a rock star. And now you’ve got to write … about love. Not quite business as usual.

But, hey, you’re a professional, right? Up for any challenge? So here’s the deal. Writing is writing, and writing about love is all but a little different. You need to change your style, find your voice, and focus on a love interest, which, if you think about it, might actually be a little more fun than writing about how to pitch some tired company product to the masses.

And a final word of advice: find a thesaurus. There are plenty available online. Really comes in handy when you are struggling to find the right words.

Writers as a Bit on the Crazy Side

You tell me. Are writers a bit on the crazy side? I think you almost have to be to have that many voices inside one head, all with different opinions, each vying for your attention to get their voice on the page. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so. I mean, how else can one writer create such different styles of copy without either 1) stealing it, 2) having some underling write it, or 3) getting a fairy godmother deliver it daily.

No, it’s the cast of characters that take shape inside our heads and land as ink on a page. Different voices. Different styles. And you don’t have to be Hemingway to do that.