First things first: Dylan Whittler isn’t my real name.
For those who have been following this blog for longer than a year, this revelation probably does not shock you. What you do not know, however, is why I chose to write under a pseudonym (translation: pen name).
It’s not as if I hadn’t considered writing under a pen name before I made the inevitable decision to do so, of course I had. Ever since I learned of Mark Twain’s true identity, somewhere in 7th grade, I had been fascinated with the idea of bleeding words on a page under a name that wasn’t tied to my birth certificate. I was intrigued by the mystery of it all. Nonetheless, I still sometimes dream of seeing my words on a bookshelf with my name—my real one—displayed proudly at the bottom, but I digress.
Before I get into the reason why I decided to use a pseudonym, I’ll give you two reasons why you might consider using one yourself.
To be a Mysterious Wordsmith
There’s a certain mystery element that comes from using a pseudonym, I think, especially if you are fortunate enough to be well-known. You can, for the most part, say whatever you want with no worry of your readers doing crazy things in response, like stalking you in real life (though that does happen).
More than that, I think writing under a pseudonym gives you the freedom to be yourself. You might have the courage, now, to write what you felt you couldn’t if you were writing under your real name. Plus, unlike your birth name, you get to pick your pseudonym and, worse case scenario, if you don’t like it or if it’s taken, you can always change it. (I did; my first alias was Lydia Harris. I felt that was too common a name, thus the current pseudonym).
To Separate Work from Home
If you have a profession in which writing is your bread and butter, a pseudonym could be a good thing for you to consider. For example, if you write hard-hitting news every day or are a blog writer for a company, learning that your boss found your ranting blog post about how horrible your job is would not be a good ending.
A pseudonym would be useful in that your real and professional identity would be hidden from those who know you outside of your small corner of cyberspace (unless you told them your secret identity).
Why I Write Under a Pseudonym
The whole story of how my pseudonym came to be is an interesting one.
In early October 2018, when I was still writing under my birth name, an unknown individual impersonated me on a social medium that I don’t use saying that I was going to kill myself at the local community college that I had graduated from five years prior. The police were notified and met me, along with my mother, at my job right after I had clocked out.
They asked the typical questions about my well fare, (i.e. had I been having any suuicidal thoughts lately?) to which I answered “No”, even if that wasn’t totally accurate. The day before I had just posted this article about an honest conversation I had with my pastor-friend about suicide. The policeman asked for my phone, for the purpose of checking my social media, and found me squeaky clean (my posts were automatically sent to my Facebook author page which doesn’t exist anymore, and which they did not check). They mainly checked to see if I was suicidal and if I had, indeed, downloaded Snapchat and, seeing that I had never downloaded or used it, they made me sign a written statement saying so, and then bid me goodnight.
After that incident, I seriously considered getting rid of all of my social media accounts and just using the blog, but I need certain ones for work and to stay in touch with friends and loved ones. So, I decided a better compromise would be to use a pseudonym. That way, I could write whatever I wanted and simultaneously keep my real identity, my identity. I kind of like it better this way. It feels almost like a secret. I will say, it was weird at first hearing people online address me as “Dylan” but I’ve gotten used to it. The weirdness is a small price to pay for my privacy and protection.