Pros and Cons of Anonymity

Writing is scary.

It’s pulling out pieces of your mind and heart and offering them to total strangers. If you’re like a lot of writers, then even showing your work to your family can be difficult. We go online, post anonymously on websites, we invent the perfect pen name so no one will ever know our true identities, and we cackle with the fantasy that hordes of readers will scour the land in search of our true identity.

Somehow, we writers can be both indelibly shy and incredibly egotistic. It’s a talent, really.

Writing is a solitary act, but being a writer is public. If you want to be a published author, you need to set up a writer’s platform, do publicity, sign books, sometimes travel and—I can sense your collective gasps—talk in front of people (like, real other humans who are probably definitely picturing you in your underwear even though you were trying to picture them in theirs).

I think this leaning toward anonymity comes from fear. It’s why we click the anonymous  button when we ask questions on Tumblr, and why we set up accounts for blogs and sites that have nothing to do with our true, secret identity. We don’t want to risk being remembered. We know that bad impressions are stickier than good impressions, and we want to protect ourselves.

To be successful as a writer, you’ll need to step out of the shadows. I know there are exceptions to every case, but just think of your favorite authors. You know their names, and you might even know their faces. You follow them on Twitter, Tumblr, and the dark streets outside their houses at night (…or wait… that’s stalking… so maybe not?).

The best part about the digital age is that it makes other people more accessible. You don’t have to use the yellow pages to look up Author X’s name and slink down their street oh-so-casually as you try to catch a glimpse of their elbow. You don’t have to picture authors as unreachable inhumans who magically produce stories once per year. You can access their websites, their social platforms, and connect with them in the way that audiences were once incapable of doing.

I’m not saying you should spend every waking minute online-stalking someone. That’s creepy. *hides digital binoculars behind back*

But the things you enjoy about your favorite authors are also things you want your potential readers to enjoy.

From a more practical standpoint, a lot of marketing and publishing comes from publicity and human connections. You won’t sell a lot of books if you’re locked in the basement closet with nothing but the faint glow of your laptop to edge off the insanity.

Other humans are very helpful! Getting a friend or family to read your book and give you feedback can be invaluable! (These beautiful souls are called Beta Readers.) Getting another writer to read your work while you read theirs is an excellent practice. (These beautiful souls are called Critique Partners.)

I know it’s scary, but it’s important. You want to get feedback from readers before you throw your book out into the ocean in the hopes that a sharky agent will take the bite, chomp down, and pull you into the world of excitement. You don’t want to throw out the pages and just watch them slowly drift, dampen, and sink. I mean, that could still happen, but you want to give your writing it’s best chance!

So take a few baby steps. Let your friend or parental unit read your most recent poem or short story. Have a sibling or pal read your first chapter.

And if you’re just starting out, it’s okay to be safe and anonymous. It can give you the courage to put your work out there.

Join a site like writing.com, WattPad, or any of the other numerous critique writing and reading sites. Just know that you’ll have to move out of your comfort point sooner or later, whether it’s talking to your agent on the phone or doing a book signing or speaking in front of a crowd. So you’ll want to take little steps to shed your anonymity, to move forward and build up that thick layer of skin for when bad reviews come out and internet trolls pick your bridge to live under.

In essence, be brave.

Risk being remembered.

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3 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Anonymity

  1. Pingback: Be Brave, Writers | words — and other things

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