Why I Ditched My Pen Names

“If you want people to love you for who you are, take the mask off.” – Quetzal

Writers have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to publishing their work. The name they choose to use can be a big one. I understand why pseudonyms exist, and I don’t have a problem with anyone using one. But I realized recently that my personal reasons for having a pen name were unhealthy and blocking my creativity.

I have had a couple of pseudonyms over the years. There was a time when I blogged under a pen name about leaving my former faith. It was immensely freeing to speak honestly about my struggles with Mormonism without fear of being disciplined by church leaders or hurting family who had not yet known about my faith crisis. It gave me an outlet to process what was going on in my mind and to connect with others who were going through something similar.

Later, I used a pen name to publish a personal story involving religious abuse. This time I was more worried about protecting someone who had emotionally abused me. And I think that’s where I started to realize that maybe this was unhealthy.

Protecting people who’ve hurt me is something that I’ve done throughout my life. I’ve always struggled with emotional boundaries, and I empathize to the point of being unable to be an advocate for myself for fear of upsetting the other person. Because throughout my life, my needs were labeled as ‘selfish’ or hurtful.

I also had this silly fear that if I wrote something and someone would read it, then *gasp* they would know it was me. It was like I wanted to share something with the world, but I didn’t want anyone to know I was sharing it. It made me feel like I wasn’t truly connecting with my readers.

There was also a concern that people I admired or respected might read and dislike my work. But I’ve since come to terms with the fact that not everyone is going to like my writing. Not everyone is going to like me. And that’s ok. True friends will be there for me regardless of the quality of my writing.

It always felt like a weird tug of war between valuing authenticity while at the same time being afraid of it.

Eventually, because my reasons for using a pseudonym were based in shame and fear, I discovered that it was emotionally stifling to write under a different name.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare

When it comes to publishing, attending writer groups, conventions, etc., it’s just a lot easier to have one name for people to associate with you. I tried going to a convention with two names on my badge once and it just didn’t feel right. And, in the end, the writing is the important thing, not the name.

Plus, I’m fond of my name. Larissa means ‘cheerful.’ My last name is my husband’s. And while I don’t believe that women are obligated to adopt their husband’s surname, in my case I’ve come to cherish his as my own. When I found him, I felt like I found home, so it just feels right to me.

So I’m lucky enough to like my name as it is. And if that’s the case, why on earth would I use a pseudonym?