5 Reasons to Use a Pseudonym (For the D.I.Y. Rock Star)


Originally published on October 17, 2017; updated on June 1, 2020

This post very loosely accompanies Gab & Jam Episode 129 (video: and podcast: )

We’ve been in the business of being a “creative” for at least 4 decades now and although we have recently discovered ways to “transparency”—being open and honest to ourselves and to others—we are used to using pseudonyms. Here we are, now, knee-deep in blogging, podcasting, and YouTubing, where we have seen folks whose advice is to use your given name as your blog address. After we weighed it all, we have gone back to our original position that, as an artistic pursuit, an artist needs a pseudonym.

What’s a pseudonym? It is “a fictitious name, especially one used by an author” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). (The example given on Mr. Google shows that Theodore Geisel is more commonly known as Dr. Seuss.) We have decided that it is not just vanity, but that pseudonyms do have some very practical purposes, including the following:

1. Expresses a Multi-Faceted Personality:

If one has as a multi-faceted personality as we do, there is no way that one name—a name that we did not even give ourselves, but was given to us at birth (before we bloomed into these wonderful, colorful creatures)—cannot contain the multi-varied, complex creatures that we are. We are cranky, but determined; flexible, but influence-able and committed, but sensitive, but conservative, yet a rebel…. —You get the idea. A single name cannot show the many phases and stages of our growth; cannot adequately chart our development. But that’s not the only reason...

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Image found on Tumblr @freewings_art

2. Maintains Anonymity: Sometimes being anonymous is a necessity. There are reasons NOT to let everyone in your personal and professional sphere know EVERYTHING that you are doing. If you are in a “sensitive” profession—like cop, teacher, preacher, etc.—you may not want to have to entertain the questions that might arise when you “express yourself.” Not that you creators are crafting skin flicks or anything, but you want to feel as if you could… As long as what you do is not illegal or immoral or unethical, you should feel a commitment to your art (without feeling inhibited by possible workplace repercussions). —For me, personally, it’s bad enough that I get looks at my piercings and my tattoos at work; I don’t need folks questioning my song lyrics or the other art that we create/share. This takes us to the next reason...

Mask (1994)

3. Makes You Braver: Piggybacking on what we’ve just said, hiding behind a veil —even if only in name—makes us bolder in our expression. Just like those folks who drop those scathing comments on folks’ posts deep into the night—knowing that their words can’t be traced back to them—so it goes with those who are seeking pure expression. We feel as if we can be completely and honestly open and ourselves, with no possible chance of meaningful reprisals. —Not professionally, but just personally. They can’t even find us to curse us out properly, so why not share ALL our opinions on EVERYTHING. Or give ALL the details of our most recent sinful experience. Who cares about being “appropriate,” when you don’t know us and can’t, realistically, find us, right?

Shadows

4. Establishes Identity: The more we learn about marketing, the more we realize that in order to target a particular audience, you must brand yourself to appeal to them. While we are not necessarily wanting to create “work” to cater to a perceived audience’s likes, we want what we do naturally (relating to one particular product—the topic of which is its own complication, but I digress) to appeal to the folks we share it with. By choosing a name that ostensibly “brands” our work, we can let potential fans anticipate what to expect before they encounter the art. (For instance, if the band’s name is Screaming Mimi, you don’t expect that this person is a fan of simple, quiet time at home.)

Screamer

5. It’s Fun: We just attended a workshop featuring Jonatha Brooke, at Sweetwater Music’s GearFest 2017, where she talked about her entry into songwriting being through words. Though her interest and expression expanded well beyond words—she plays keyboard and guitar and, now, mandolin—it was interesting words that first sparked her to create songs. As a creative person, I enjoy a turn of phrase, imagery, and metaphors. What better way to get my fix than to be constantly creating new pseudonyms? By creating these new names, I am able to step into these new personas that are expressed through these words. If you take that away from me, I may be just a little lost…. —After all, I have been using a pseudonym since I was about 8 years old and don’t really know how I would live without it.

Colorful person?!

Kaniibal Tea on Tumblr

I think I get it with blogging now; it’s not all about SEOs, but it’s about being full of myself and knowing that I am the most interesting character I will ever read about. And knowing that I want others to know that about me too. And I want to be the most interesting character others have ever encountered. That’s why I’m blogging and vlogging. I am driven by this philosophy above all else. I already know that I can’t be in it for the money or the fame or that altruistic thing. I have to be in it because I have decided that I am THE SHIT and I want everyone else to know it.

So, I already know that some days, I’m gonna be like “Fuck dem bitches!”—and I will want to do whatever the hell I want. And other days, I will be like “Let me put on my bowtie,” so that all the fans—and sponsors—adore me. I have already resigned myself to knowing that, if you love me, you fucking love me. But if you hate me, I will never be able to win you over. And I’ve decided that I’m okay with that. If I can make a living off of being who the fuck I naturally am, then bring on the champagne bottles. If, however, I am not your cup of tea, I will have to beg, borrow, and all-but-steal to make my livelihood. If I can make enough to replace my meager salary on that, then I am good. After all, I am too old to worry about the shit I can’t control.

Having said all that, I have decided to come from behind the cloak a little and share enough, so that you know that I am real, but not to put every single morsel of my life on display. If you have read this far, thank you for deciding that this is a journey you are willing to take with me. Won’t you please click subscribe, so that you can stay updated on my continual journey to find and nurture creative happiness in the world around me.

What do you think: Should a blogger/artist use a pseudonym?

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Until next time, peace, love and chicken grease!

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