The Importance of a Pen Name

Do you ever feel trapped in your writing?  Do you worry that, or sometimes feel, someone is looking over your shoulder telling you which word should go where and how your stories should play out?  Then maybe you should do what I did, and create a pen name, or a “superhero persona”, as I like to call it.

Natalie Goldberg, an author who has produced many inspirational books about creative writing, says that when we write, we should create words like we bake bread.  We should take our time to be with the words, we should allow the yeast to activate, wait for the bread to rise, and bake it.  When we take our time with baking bread, we create a delicious final product.  Writing is very much the same.  Our careful manipulation of a thought needs to raised and cared for as though it were an infant.  It needs to be protected away from thoughts or people who may destroy the idea.  An editor, in my opinion, is someone who sort of parents your work with you as a team.  They need to be someone you trust and whose constructive criticism you can agree with.  When we make a story, we are baking bread.  It is important to feed the hungry.  Most importantly, we need to bake bread that nourishes the soul.

A pen name allows us to create a work that can nourish a soul because it frees the mind.  In my real life, the constraints and thoughts of those around me worry me.  My different philosophy of life is one that leaves many to roll their eyes or worry about my own well-being.  This sort of impasse in my creativity makes it almost damn near impossible to progress to the next level as an artist.  That is why I do feel that a pen name is incredibly important for any creative writer.

I’ve tried to explain to those around me the importance of my work.  In real life, no one really cares about what you are writing.  They think it’s “cute” that one writes short stories or they try to express something to the world that is burning inside of them.  The construction and creation of a work is something that scares them.  For some, the honesty of writing introspectively is too much exploration.  This is why they demean what writers do.  Many story writers become used to the bullying comments from others about our “fictional little worlds.” 

However, This is not every one though.  There are those out there who are just as excited and inspired to create as I am, and those people will always lend their ear.  However, we do not truly live in a world that values novelists, and I am okay with this, but the power of pen name allows me to become the author and voice that truly unleashes all aspects of my creative soul.  This is the one place, the one voice, where I can challenge my voice to become something other than it is.  This name is one where I can create the works burning inside me, but the own realities of own life hold me back from creating.

Fiction is the only time we can truly escape this real world.  For the longest time, I wanted to believe that I was a realist.  As I get older, I see why I have trouble making friends and why I prefer to spend most of my time alone.  I much rather would live in the clouds.  My naive and superior optimism scares some.  It is a message that most realists aren’t willing to hear.   I have been accused of living in a fantasy world, and for the most part, I do.  I think I have always channeled my emotions in this way because those around me have always seemed uniterested in my thoughts.

I think that is why my desire to write is so deep.  I think that is why the creation of a pen name is so paramount to me.   I don’t even want some of the people who know me the most to know the thoughts I write.  I don’t want to offend.  I don’t want to hurt.  That is why Marla is such a good name for me. 

Marla comes from the name “Marla Singer” from the movie and book “Fight Club”.  In the movie, Marla Singer is played by Helena Bonham Carter.  I like this name because Marla is the crass voice of reason and truth in a world that has gone way too wrong.  She is a character that goes to support groups of those are terminally ill to find hope.  I think we all can relate to that in some way.

When I feel like I need to censor my voice, I simply just think of Marla Singer.  I think of the crass things she would say in any given situation:

“It’s a bridesmaid’s dress. Someone loved it intensely for one day, and then tossed it. Like a Christmas tree. So special. Then, bam, it’s on the side of the road. Tinsel still clinging to it. Like a sex crime victim. Underwear inside out. Bound with electrical tape.”

“A condom is the glass slipper for our generation. You slip one on when you meet a stranger. You dance all night, and then you throw it away. The condom, I mean, not the stranger.”

It’s okay to say the truth sometimes.  Maybe your own inner voice is not someone like Marla.  For some, Marla is too crass of an inner voice.  But I do feel this sort of power within me, and when I call upon this name, it draws me closer to what I want to achieve.

I hope you can find your pen name too.

Or as Chuck Palahniuk would say, I hope you can find your power animal.


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