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The Game Of The Name

F. Lewin

What is it that causes both seasoned and amateur writers to stow away the name they received at birth, and feverishly pull out a baby-naming book to choose a carefully camouflaged byline?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Should I sign my name? But … people will know it’s me! I don’t care ... Yes, I do!

I wasn’t agonizing over an attorney’s last warning, or some life-saving procedure, not by a long shot. I was just trying to get up the guts to sign my name on an article I’d written.

My courage rose; I quickly typed my name. Then my courage dropped; I hit delete. Relief surged through me as my name vanished. 

Later that morning, I read an article in which the writer revealed her housekeeping challenges, confessing that her home often looks like a tornado had hit. Admiration and a tinge of envy washed over me as I recognized the author’s name.

She used her real name.

How could she?

I glanced around my own kitchen and smiled bemusedly.

Is she the only one? Don’t we all have days when our homes look like a hurricane’s ripped through? So, why do I get the jitters at the mere thought of using my real name on such an article?

Name Dropping

What is it that causes both seasoned and amateur writers to stow away the name they received at birth, and feverishly pull out a baby-naming book to choose a carefully camouflaged byline?

“I think the reason I use pseudonyms is because I write in many genres, which target different audiences,” says writer and editor Myriam Miller. “As a health writer, I use M. Miller. For the first short essays I published in a women’s magazine, I used Myriam Miller. Then I realized that people were recognizing me as the health writer. My short essays were personal reflections and had nothing to do with health. So, I started using several pseudonyms.

“Yet I always I stick with Myriam Miller for academic articles. Using a pseudonym for those would indicate I have something to hide, and would be detrimental.”

Lashon hara!” says writer and editor Shoshana R., when asked why she hides her identity. “Since I’m divorced and tend to write a lot about my single-mother experiences, I don’t want to be guilty of lashon hara in print.”

“Modesty,” says writer and editor Sara Chava Mizrahi. “Some people feel uncomfortable revealing that they have writing talent, just as some people with beautiful voices feel uncomfortable singing in public.”


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