Fiction, Opinion, Self discovery

A Narcissist by Any Other Name Still Has a Name


Kenny from Chicago recently wrote:

“HI Shereese, I found a copy of Vanity Tags. You wrote it under a different name which made me want to ask you a question.  I attended a workshop and was told not to use my name when writing. Why do you now use your real name and why didn’t you then?”

Some may remember, Kenny likes to challenge me and will sometimes use his and his younger brother’s relationship to challenge me on relationship dynamics. Kenny brings up a very valid topic as I too was given the same advice regarding the writing process.

Kenny, some years ago while studying fiction writing in NYC, I was told by an instructor whom I greatly respect (Anthony Tognazzini) that a beginning writer should not use their real name but should instead, write under a pen name.  It was good advice at the time for someone who had a fragile ego.  When an agent sent out a rejection letter, s/he was rejecting Reese Cromwell, SC Tucker, or S Cromwell, not me.  But seriously folks, the use of a pen name was suggested as a means of maintaining a level of anonymity and as a way of sending out multiple submissions.  It is useful early in a writer’s career and some writers keep pen names for their entire career.  I neither condone nor condemn the use of a pen name or your surname; it is the artist‘s choice.  Personally I used a pen name early on because I had a fear of rejection.  I realize this doesn’t make me unique but it is an honest assessment of my feelings.  I had very limited success writing fiction and most of what I published served my day profession rather than my passion.  Then a funny thing happened on my way to total abandonment of my craft; I was reminded of something my father once said.  When I was a teenager, I wanted a pair of   very expensive designer jeans.  My father told me, “having somebody else’s name on your backside doesn’t make you famous and doesn’t define you. One day you’ll realize you’re own name will have to be enough.” Clearly I couldn’t appreciate the sentiment then; I pouted for a week.  As I got older and became more comfortable with my voice my name became more important.   

 Artists have enormous egos.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. I’ve often said writers write because they have to; not for money but because we want that story to mean something to someone and we need to know that we told that story as it truly is and as no one else could tell it.  And no matter what else it is, it’s an ego trip when someone appreciates what you write.  Would you want any other name on that work, the one that someone loves, the one that people get? So you could say I had an epiphany and from that day forward, I have used my name.  Strangely enough, using my name has been good for me on a lot of levels, not the least of which is my ability to look myself in the mirror and say, “I wrote that!”

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5 thoughts on “A Narcissist by Any Other Name Still Has a Name”

  1. Hi Shereese,

    While the advice that you were given as a young person seems reasonable, I’ve never considered using a pen name. I believe that you’ve zeroed in on the reason why. Sure, ego can be viewed in a negative light, but a healthy amount of it allows us to take chances with our writing and, hopefully, touch the lives of our readers in meaningful ways. Ray

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