Posted in Poetry & Mere Musings, Stuff No One Talks About

2 Reasons Why Writing Under a Pen Name is a Good Thing

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).

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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.

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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.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Find Your Voice: Writing Through Fear

Dear Lovelies,

So much is happening! Well, really, one thing in particular but it’s taking up a lot of time and energy. I’ve been silent for past the two weeks because… (wait for it)… I’ve been writing my book! I am excited but also cautious, mainly because of the book’s content (there will be many writings on living with trauma and PTSD as a Christian. I don’t plan on sugarcoating anything).

I spent most of last week researching books in my niche, trying to get a feel for which publication(s) I should consider once the book is done. And writing, of course. Lots of writing and rewriting, but in that, I’m finding my voice and learning to trust myself.

I don’t know what’s going to happen or how the book is going to turn out but I’m ready for whatever happens. This creative nonfiction adventure I’m on is definitely a journey, one that I wouldn’t have taken had I let fear get in the way.

I want to hear from you guys. Have you ever let fear stop you from an opportunity? How’d you deal with the aftermath? How would your life be different if you had stepped out in faith?

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Tackling Creative Nonfiction: An Adventure in Self-Discovery

Dear Lovelies,

I have recently started a new journey: writing a book. But not just any book, no. This book is excruciatingly personal, which automatically makes it a different kind of painful than my fiction novel I’ve left on the shelf. This book is unlike anything I ever thought I’d write because it’s not dealing with fictional elements; it’s creative nonfiction. I can’t hide here.

The reason I chose creative nonfiction, as opposed to fiction, is because I was reading some essays I wrote from when I took a Creative Nonfiction class in college. While reading, I fell in love with the language, the words all over again.

Writing those essays were somewhat challenging because prior to that class, I had only ever written fiction. I was comfortable there, but with this new endeavor, I’d not only been moved out of my comfort zone, I had expanded it. I want to do that again. I want to be real with myself and others. No more fictional lies. Just gritty, hair-raising, mouth-gaping honesty and authenticity.

The intended book is, and will be, a collection of poems and essays, including work I’ve written on this blog and new, unforeseen works centered around three essential topics: Life, Christianity, and Mental Issues. Pretty broad, I know, but it’ll make sense when it’s all done.

More than a journey of self-discovery, I’m writing this book because I know I’m not alone in my struggles. Someone needs my book. That’s not being vain, I’m just being real. I know I’m not the only Christian in the world who’s been traumatized and is living with the aftermath of those experiences. I’m not the only one questioning whether or not God is who He says he is and struggles with the shame and guilty feelings that come as a result of that wrestling match. I’m not the only one who knows how hard it is to get out of bed in the morning. I feel honored to write this book, regardless if anyone reads it or not.

~

To my followers, whether you’ve been here from the beginning or just five minutes ago, I want to thank you for your continued support and readership. Love you guys!

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

For Friendships that Lasted Too Long

Once in a blue moon,
when everything changes,
you’ll look back on the conversations
we had and laugh at inside jokes
from a thousand forevers ago.

When everything changes,
as it must, for that is nature’s way,
I hope you’ll still find joy
in reading Shakespeare before bedtime,
shrouded by moonlight and with a hot Chai tea in hand.

I hope you still have dance parties in your pajamas,
blasting Usher’s DJ Got Us Falling in Love,
and go for a last-minute midnight drive to the Golden Arches
to grab McFlurries (Oreo only cuz you could choke on the Reese’s).

I hope, when life has tired you beyond recognition,
that you’ll find solace in a Rinker Pit-like palace.
Somewhere solid, with lowered steps that lead to concrete ground,
a spot to rest your weary head, a chance to stare up at the stars
to play make believe just one more time.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

A Diagnosis is NOT a Life Sentence

Dear Lovelies,

It’s 4:08 in the morning as I type this. The reason I’m up this early is that I was thinking of the past few years of my life, as it relates to thorns in my flesh. I was thinking about the conversation I had with my friend, and how we agreed that it is distasteful, detrimental, and dangerous to claim a diagnosis that you don’t actually have. On the flip side of that, a diagnosis can be the gateway to healing.

When I got diagnosed with the first thorn in my flesh (aka “mental illness”), it was the second week of my junior year of college, after Labor Day weekend. After telling the male Indian psychologist what had been happening that week, and years prior as far as my thought process was concerned, he diagnosed me with clinical depression. That diagnosis was not surprising. What did surprise me was the way he immediately started pushing antidepressants on me in an extremely aggressive way. It was because of his aggressive approach (and the fact that I prayed for guidance after he momentarily left the room) that I decided against taking antidepressants and went to an on-school counselor instead.

The second thorn in my flesh happened October 30, 2014. That was the day I got diagnosed, officially, with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I say “officially” because my counselor had unofficially diagnosed me with it two days prior after I told her my symptoms. I doubt that conversation would have happened if not for a conversation I had with an out of state friend a week prior. I was telling him about what happened on a particular day, how I had walked out of yet another class because of flashbacks. He simply asked me afterward, “Are you sure you don’t have PTSD?” That was the beginning of a long road to healing. I am forever grateful to him. So, as it stands currently, I’ve had this thorn for 3 years, 2 months, and 5 days. It’s been a wild ride. The first two years were a hellish nightmare because I had no help. My on-campus counselor wasn’t trained in trauma, so for the rest of my junior year and the entirety of my senior year, I was on my own. Things got worse once I left college.

It’s hard enough having a diagnosis, experiencing the symptoms, and not being able to function even with a support team. Take that away, and you feel completely lost and alienated, especially when you’re surrounded by people who don’t necessarily understand the need for psychology and therapy after traumatization. In the summer and fall months following my graduation, I was told by many that I shouldn’t accept or claim the diagnosis I had received, that I was either being tested by God or pursued by Satan, and that I should just pray and read Scripture, which I did, but in the wee hours of the morning when I woke up from nightmares and went straight into a panic attack or flashback, Scripture wasn’t helpful. It helped me when dealing with the spiritual warfare I faced in conjunction with PTSD, but that was it for me. I often felt like if I did experience heavy symptoms that Scripture and prayer couldn’t resolve, then I was simply letting the diagnosis control me; I wasn’t trying hard enough to overcome it. Truth be told, PTSD was controlling me, to the point I couldn’t function, but not because I hadn’t read my Bible and prayed enough. It was because I hadn’t found a therapist yet. I felt like going to therapy was weak and “a white person thing,” certainly not for a Black Christian. I got over that way of thinking real quick when suicidal thoughts became more prevalent.

After being in therapy for almost 1.5 years, I have since learned that a diagnosis is not a life sentence, in and of itself. It only becomes one if you allow it. If you refuse to apply coping mechanisms or do the exercises your therapist gives you, if you just give up, then, yes, your diagnosis has turned into a life sentence and has left you immobile and not able to function. However, if you give life a chance, in the middle of symptoms and diagnoses, you’ll find that you can live. You can make better choices, grow in love and trust, and have a good relationship with yourself in the midst of mental chaos. A diagnosis does not automatically mean a life sentence. Go live.