Name Quandary

saymynameI haven’t posted new content in a really long time.

With my blog, I always have a lot of questions and doubts about posting.
-Should I continue to post writing samples, even though some publications consider that as being “previously published”?
-Do I still write about TV now that Breaking Bad is long over, and some of the other shows I would write about are not at all in the same genre?
-Do I still post about disability, knowing that it could alienate people, or that I could (and do sometimes) get frustrated in the lack of understanding that can result?
-What do I do when life is really busy? What about the fact that my natural style is to post in fits and starts rather than something more steady when I know that steady is better?
-With every post, should I post it? Should I not? What if it’s too edgy? What if it pisses people off? What if I get a lot of internet troll commenters all of a sudden?
-What do I do about my name?

Emilia Jordan isn’t my real name. There were a lot of reasons I chose to use a name not at all related to my real one, and one of them comes up in this post about job discrimination based on disability. The people at the job interview knew I had a disability before I came to the interview because they’d found my blog, which back then was under my real name.

So, there can be consequences to having my real name out there. And of course, there is also the issue of my writing. I want to be able to free in my writing, and that means sometimes to write about topics that I don’t want potential employers or grad/professional schools admissions committees to read. I already have enough self-doubt (see question list above) that I don’t want to add to that list taking into account that this could be read by someone deciding whether to admit me to a program or hire me. Especially since a lot of the writing I do is personal, and sometimes it gets a little dark.

It just seemed like a clear decision, professionally speaking, when I started this WordPress blog. I would try to build an audience for my writing and connect with people under a pen name because of practical concerns.

But here’s the rub: Sometimes it just straight up feels weird. Especially over time. Although I like this name I’ve picked, I definitely prefer my real name. In some ways, I’ve gotten more used to it over time. A lot of people I know in real life who I met through writing circles call me Emilia. And over the years, that’s gotten less weird, but other things have gotten weirder.

One of the things that’s gotten weirder is submitting my writing with a pen name. Some places sort of expect that a little bit, I think. If you submit to the Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Contest, there is an optional field for “Writer Name,” and I’ve been able to manage it on Submittable as well, which is a platform that many, many publications use for writers to submit their writing. So it’s not that it’s impossible, or that even unexpected. It’s that it feels weird. It would feel weird to get my writing published and not have my real name attached to it. Sad, really.

In all the time I’ve used my pen name, I’ve only had one piece of writing place in a contest, and my pen name, in that case, was problematic because they didn’t go through Submittable or any of those things (if I remember right, it was a paper submission) and they were confused about my name, and listed everything in their newsletter and their awards brochure with my real name. In one sense, that felt right, because it is my real name. On the other, it was frustrating because it was hard to link here and use that to help build platform because it was all using a completely different name from what I use here.

And what about when I submit things like screenplays? I haven’t done anything with any of my screenwriting yet, and sometimes I think the name thing is part of why I haven’t. It doesn’t make sense to submit something like that under a false name at all (just seems weird all around) but again, what do I do about integrating something like that into this site? It was hard enough to add in the previous publications (as they were all under my real name) without making things confusing on here.

The whole issue really stops me in my tracks sometimes, and I start thinking all the repercussions of either decision and just get a little stuck. I have some things that I’m ready to submit, and I don’t know what to do about which name to use, so I just put it off and miss deadlines. Sometimes, the part of me that’s not superstitious but “a little stitious” wonders if the fact that I haven’t gotten anything accepted since I started using my pen name is a sign that I shouldn’t be using it. I know it’s probably unrelated, logically thinking, but I do wonder still.

So I just spin in circles. I don’t know what to do when submitting my writing. I don’t know what to do with this site. I’m thinking about migrating to WordPress.org and hosting my own site but it’s like, am I really migrating this domain? Sometimes I feel resigned to this pen name I came up with. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like me. My real name is less…feminine. And clearly given the theme of this site and all its pink and flowers, I’m not opposed to that, but it does feel different.

I think that if the decision was just simply about what I most wanted, I’d use my real name. In a way, it just feels more writerly, and more me. Plus, it’s a lot easier not to deal with pen name confusion when submitting writing. But if I did that, what about all the concerns about jobs and admissions committees? What about really wanting to be free in my writing? What about the fact that some of my writing is really personal? What about all the time I’ve put into this site that is based on a pen name that I posted in regularly for two years? And that all my social media is under that pen name? What the fuck is a girl to do with her author platform?

I don’t know if there is any good answer to any of this. I just wanted to put it out there because it’s one of the many things I trip all over when thinking about going forward with this site.

I’ve never, ever been good at making decisions.

~EJ/Not EJ

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22 thoughts on “Name Quandary

  1. Dear (insert real name here),
    Your questions are wonderful and reflect many of the questions that plague me, and probably many other writers, too. During a quick trip to Salt Spring Island last week, I saw a card made by a local artist that said something along the lines of “Be as close to your true self as you dare.” It seems fitting, and maybe we all struggle with the balance between being open about our potentially off-putting or even “dangerous” thoughts, and being 100% honest. I don’t know the answer, for myself or anyone else, but one thing I do know is that you bring a perspective that no one else can. Your experience combined with your gift for analysis and articulation make you an especially insightful and eloquent spokesperson for all you might say — whether that’s in regards to disability, popular culture, science, your incredible wit, or any of a zillion other topics. I personally hope that whatever name you choose to use, you will continue to write as candidly and openly about your perspective as you dare. I believe the greatest artists and writers are those who push the bounds of understanding. Those who take the safe route might have a temporary popularity with a more conventional audience, but are not necessarily making the world a better place by expanding the minds of others. The key, of course, lies in the words, as much “as you dare.”
    Dare on,
    Jill

    • JILL!

      First of all, I miss you! We need to find a way to catch up soon because it’s been way too long, and I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to, how things are going with your book, and everything else! I know you’re not on FB anymore, are you still at your same email?

      And thanks so much for your thoughts on writing. You make some excellent points that really speak to me in terms of being authentic in the writing and the blog. I love the quote too. It’s inspiring and it speaks to what I hope to be as a writer.

      And maybe the name thing isn’t all that important in the long run, or at least right now. I guess it just doesn’t quite feel like it fits, and that just may be something to deal with for now. Maybe it’ll all work itself out and isn’t worth spending a ton of time worrying over. I could always deal with it later. The real issue is about being true in the writing.

      ~EJ

  2. IMO you should do what you feel comfortable with. Re using your real name, that means only if and when you feel safe doing so. Once it’s out there, it can’t be undone.

    Speaking for myself, I’d love to see more of all the categories of writing you mentioned. Since this is your main blog now, you might as well use it to make your earlier writing available at one location. And I’d like to read more about both disability issues and whatever TV shows you happen to be into now. Whatever the topic, there’s probably a niche readership of people out there who share your interest; what matters is whether you’re engaged with the subject matter, as you were with Breaking Bad.

    • Hey Kevin,

      It’s true, there is already some stuff out there under my real name that I kinda wish I could take back b/c of the job/etc situation. Certain writing pieces that got published before I came up with EJ and such that will come up if you google my real name.

      And then on the other hand, when I think of submitting a piece of writing for publication, and maybe this is an ego thing, I just reeeally would want to put my own name to it if it did get published.

      I supposed one possibility is to just play around with it, submit some things (maybe the more tame ones that I wouldn’t care if an employer/admissions person read) under my real name, and some under EJ and just see what happens. In one way, it’s kind of nice that I don’t have a real established writing career or anything like that yet b/c I can still play around and be flexible with it.

      And thank you for your feedback! I really appreciate that, and I really should start blogging more regularly. Sometimes it’s a love/hate thing and I get sick of it, but now that I’m doing it again, I realize I missed it.

      ~EJ

  3. Hi EJ,

    You might remember me from the Breaking Bad Forum. I always enjoyed reading your blog. I am one of the few people on the Breaking Bad forum that actually uses their real name :-). Heehee, I’m not comparing that with your situation. I understand your dilemma. If using your real name presents problems with potential work opportunities then I say use your fake name and don’t feel the slightest bit bad about it. The important thing is that you commit to being true to your writing! If something popular or satisfying comes from that then you can decide if you want your real name associated with it. But if its not something that has any measure of what you consider success then why let potential job suitors use it against you?
    Anyway nice to see you posting again :-)

    • Of course I remember you! Do people still hang out at the AMC boards? That site was always so hard for my browser to handle and would make my internet freeze so after the show stopped, I didn’t go there as much. I miss everyone though! Thanks for showing up.

      I think you do make a good point. Any temptation I feel to use my real name, which is really what I would prefer to do, just kind of takes a backseat when I get to the part about potential employers. And then I wonder, did I pick the right fake name, since it just doesn’t feel quite right, but then again, maybe no fake name ever will exactly feel right b/c it’s not my real name.

      I also like your idea that some of the decision about the writing can come later, because that’s really true.

      It just feels so odd to go by a name that isn’t mine I think it’s sth I thought I would get more used to but really haven’t. I really want to put my real name on my work. But then there’s that job/school issue again, and that just seems like something I can’t go against!

      Anyway, I really appreciate your thoughts and it’s great to see you here! Do you still use the eye avi?

      ~EJ/Not EJ

  4. I could have written this post, to an extent. I mean, I share a lot of the concerns you have. I also go dormant for long periods on my blog. I also post under a pseudonym due to privacy concerns (although my real name is plainly evident if anyone roots around a bit on my blog). I’m also hesitant to post things that might be considered too “edgy”. I steer clear of politics as much as possible, as things are so polarized these days.

    I’m constantly asking myself if a given post is appropriate to the theme of my blog, or if my blog even has a theme, given how diverse the posts are.

    I would steer clear of posting samples of anything you intend to submit to a publisher, though. The short stories I’ve posted to my blog are the ones I’ve given up trying to get published.

    • Yes, I’m almost positive I know your real name. Mine is nothing at all like EJ but it also could be found if someone wanted to do some dedicated digging!

      It’s kind of helpful to know that I’m not the only person who worries about what to post, especially the edgier stuff. And yes, I used to get political at times on my old blog that was under my real name, but I haven’t imported any of that here. I pretty much avoid it on all social media.

      As for the writing, most of the newer material is just short little snippets here and there, or works in progress that are nowhere near publication. But whenever I do submit something, I look at their guidelines about what counts as previously published and if I need to, I’ve taken posts down. It’s just that I don’t really have much more old material, and I had gotten so used to the habit of posting some sort of writing sample every Friday, so it was hard to abandon that but I just don’t have a whole lot more I can post after two years of doing that.

      EJ

      • Yup! It’s like, what if you want to publish something in a very liberal magazine and they see some conservative post on your blog, or vice versa. I’m not strongly conservative or liberal and so I could easily post something that would piss off a crowd that I don’t want to piss off. I worry about those things.

        As far as not having a whole lot more you can post, there are always personal anecdotes, general commentary, and the like. I’ve been doing the Friday Fictioneers thing a bit on my blog, which sometimes give me new ideas and makes me think of things I wouldn’t otherwise have thought of.

        • That’s cool, maybe I’ll check that out. I haven’t done much fiction in awhile (except for screenwriting, which is fictional but not the same as fiction writing) so it could be a really good thing!

  5. Bah! I saw Brian’s comment up there and thought I would pop over to the BrBa forum and check in, but the forums seem to be down for an update of some kind.

    You need to pop into the forums during the next season of Better Call Saul … you would be amazed at how many people returned. I go to the old BrBa forum only very rarely, but I was a pretty active poster in the BCS forum during the season. It’s a really good show! :-)

    • I loved BCS! It was so well done and I’m really looking forward to the next season. Also waiting for the next season of True Detective and Fargo. I’ll definitely have to come to the board for BCS next time around.

      I also can’t wait for the return of some other shows, some not nearly as good as those mentioned above, like Pretty Little Liars (lol).

      • Although I think the setting is a little before your time, you might check out The Americans on FX. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s (graduated from HS in 1984), so the 1980’s setting of The Americans is pretty nostalgic for me. It’s a great show!

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