It's All in a Name: Getting Past Being Anonymous

I’ve had a few people lately who have asked me why I don’t use my real name on this site. I’ve certainly thought about it from time to time, especially as I’ve been blogging under an semi-anonymous identity for about eight years now (six years on another site and two years here). It isn’t like it’s all that hard to find, but why not just put it out there?

My name is Jamie Grove.

There. I said it.

I guess I’ve always had this little identity problem. I’m not alone in this. I’ve read about plenty of writers who have gone through the same sort of problems.

As a eulogy to my mask, here’s a little story about how I came to be afraid of my own name…

I got hooked on writing because my fifth grade teacher let me skip class.

A friend of mine was working on a long story that spilled over into multiple chapters and detailed illustrations. The teacher was so excited that she let him work in the hall for an hour a day. To me, this looked like an easy way to ditch class so I started writing a story too… The same story my friend was writing, only it wasn’t as good.

I remember how quiet it was in the hall…

My friend made steady progress on his book, while I started to wonder what I was doing out there. My thoughts began to wander and I found myself scribbling a few ideas of my own.

After a few weeks, my friend finished his book. The librarian bound up his book and made it available for checkout in the school library.

I had a book too: a long story about a kid in the fifth grade sitting in the hall.

But when I was asked to show what I had, I turned in a pile of messy notes instead of the book. Something about seeing all those thoughts and feelings with my name on it terrified me. I froze up and could not force myself to produce the work I’d struggled to create.

This is something that’s happened to me again and again, but now it’s time to say good-bye to all that.

It is a waste of time and energy to keep secrets about yourself. You care way more than other people care about your life and what you may or may not have done. It is best to open up, vent, move on, and advance to the next stage. Let others worry about hiding in the corner.

— The Masked Millionaire

More About Me

You can find out about my professional life via my LinkedIn profile http://www.linkedin.com/in/jamiegrove.

Below is a picture of me before I got half loaded at the Irish Lion in Bloomington, IN. I highly recommend this pub.

jamie_grove.jpg

I really have written two bad novels and lots of short stories. Those all bear my name… And yes, I do indeed have a journal crammed with 2MM words.

If you’re still not sure about coming out, check out this older article by Sonia Simone, Come Out of the Closet:

No one gives a rat’s ass about the huge investment of energy you spend trying to be like everyone else.

Most of us spend our time and energy carefully cultivating our masks. And those masks are almost universally a) laughably transparent, and/or b) boring.

It seems simple, and it is, but it’s also hard. Being remarkable means being different. “Different” is not actually all that far from “weird.”

One of the great cornerstones of marketing (note to self, must add this to the marketing tool kit for my newsletter) is differentiation. You’ll also see it called the unique value proposition or unique selling proposition. You need to find out, and communicate, what makes you unlike all of your customers’ other options. What makes you uniquely valuable. What makes you interesting. What makes you remarkable.

What makes you weird.

I hope this post of mine inspires other writers to come out of the world of anonymous blogging. Chuck the masks and get on with life!

26 thoughts on “It's All in a Name: Getting Past Being Anonymous

  1. Let me be first to say:

    Hi, Jamie!

    I’d say I look forward to getting to know you, but from reading you and from talking to you on Twitter and in comments, I feel like I already know you. Now I just have a face (and name) to go with it, and don’t have to mistype HNTW 4 different ways when replying to a comment!

    Welcome, Jamie. It’s nice out here.

  2. Oh thank goodness! Nice to meet you Jamie Grove! Like Bob said I feel like I know you from the blog and twitter but I cannot tell you how often I kept wondering who you really were. A name, a face, hallelujuah! I celebrate your coming out. :-)

  3. @Bob Thanks! I keep typing your name backwards too but somehow the effect is quite different. :) The site here is as real as it gets, so you have a good idea of who I am.

    @Meryl Much Niebu! If you find any gray on this site, let me know before you scrub me! :)

    @Karen I’m happy about it too! See, this is my third smiley… :)

  4. Yikes.
    Scary. I have tried to keep my online self seperated from my real life self for 12 years, and I am now finding that due to business, they are starting to converge..which leads to exactly what you have addressed. I cannot stay anonymous forever, but stripping off my habitual shell is a scary thought.

    Until I recently started using my current av, I was androgynous as well as anonymous. 12 years ago when I came online, I found a noticable difference in the way that female tech types and males were regarded, and as a contributing tech in chatrooms and IRC I felt it best to be just Islander. Online friends shortened that to Isle, and there are still some who to this day don’t realize that I am female, let alone know my real name.

    I am waffling on the edge of my reveal, it must eventually happen, of course. It won’t be easy. It is probably by now much less of a deal than I have built it up to be.

    How are you feeling now? I would imagine a sense of freedom, and a bit of trepidation…

    I admire that you did this. Kudos, and nice to meet you, Jaimie. (I’m Kim)
    Ok, well, it’s a start, right?

  5. @Isle of Kim :) I feel good about it. Sort of the way I felt when I sent out my Clarion West application after being “submission deficient” for about 10 years. So much of my life is already online, but my writing has always been so personal… Anyway, it’s one monkey off the back. Thanks!!!!

  6. Dude. I grinned from paragraph one all the way down. Bravo, well done. But please don’t get rid of the avatar… that’s the best choice of avatar I’ve ever seen in my life and instantly recognizable.

    To me, anyways.

    (ponders why all the really cool people are named Jamie…)

  7. Oh, and my best friend is a “Jamie.”

    Don’t worry about 0% gray (like in the comments form) — I didn’t look at things like blog features such as post date and forms. It was more important for the fresh content to be readable.

  8. Nice to have a name to put to you, Jamie. It felt odd referring to you as “The Editor” if I referenced a post of yours. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I started out blogging as just Tekaran Lady I suppose in a vain attempt to keep my writing life and personal life separate. It turned out to be counterproductive considering the type of blog I have, so I finally decided to go ahead and post under the same name I publish under a few weeks ago. It’s more fun blogging as yourself anyway, I think.

  9. @AB I hear you. It’s funny how many people have told me the exact same thing…

    There is a wonderful group of people who follow posts here via email. I get nice comments from them on a regular basis and give private advice on stories. There was a nice batch of messages this morning like this:

    “Thank YOU!”

    “It’s about time!!!!”

    “glad dat’s over…”

    And so on…

    Big hugs to all you lurkers and email/rss friends. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I agree that it’s far more fun just to be me. Hope it makes me more productive too.

  10. Hey Jamie!

    Good to connect a real name to a face.

    Only one thing wrong with your picture. Here you are sitting in front of an Irish Pub sign, a Guiness sign no less, and ye no have a pint in yer hand! What’s wrong with ye lad!

  11. Oh, yeah!!!!!
    I’m so happy you did this!
    It’s so hard to write “Hi How Not to write, I’m so glad you stopped by!”
    And you always seemed so nice, so its seemed like….hmmm.what’s up with that?

    Now we can get all comfy and hang out and say welcome to the gang Jamie!

    One of my favorite names too!

  12. @JL Thanks! I totally agree. We just walked in and my wife said she had to have a picture of my in front of that sign. I wanted to get to the drinking, but I’m a good boy. That said, the next words out of my mouth were, “Tabhair dom dhรก phionta leanna le do thoil!”

    @Wendi Thanks!!! Now I need to get that next post up. My name’s had its 15 minutes. :)

  13. Congratulations, Jamie!

    The reveal is scarey, yes, but a huge step forward. And for anyone who is serious about writing (as you clearly are) and has genuine talent (as you clearly do), a convergence of Real Life and the online shadow will be inevitable. Better to ‘out’ yourself at a time of your own choosing!

    I’m curious – do you have any sense, yet, of whether this might change your blogging voice in any way?

  14. @RJL Thanks! Now I’m blushing.

    On the voice thing, I don’t expect any changes. Here’s a little story that might help explain:

    My father was a police officer and he was very good at sniffing out trouble. So, I pretty much got caught for every bad thing I did growing up.

    However, rather than learning to be sneaky, I found out that is way more fun to be bad and own up to it from the start. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    The only exception to this was the bachelor party I held for a pal of mine. We had it at my parents house while they were on vacation. I would have gotten away with that one too if the “entertainment” hadn’t brought a pink feather boa. Thought I swept them all up, but it turns out I missed a few.

    We had a good laugh about that one, even though the old man was pissed that I didn’t take pictures.

  15. Wow!!!

    I “stumbled upon” this blog page. Oddly fitting that as I struggle to find my “voice”, it should be about “coming out of the closet”.

    I write – have done for over ten years now. But not fiction. I write for an online food ‘zine ( http://www.seasoned.com ) and what started out as informational, how-to, and food related, has evolved into opinion, commentary, ruminating.

    And now I want to take it further.

    We shall see.

    But enough about that, well done, Jamie. I like what I’ve found on your site so far. I’ll be back!!!

  16. Love the ‘fun being bad’ stories – sounds like you’ve secretly been wanting to be forced out into the open, maybe? In any case, it explains why your writing always rings true, even before there was a name attached: How Not To Write is/was not a *persona* but a true pseudonym. It all becomes clear now! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  17. Jamie,

    So glad I took a moment to read this post. I took this step just this past year after my Myspace page/blog got wiped out. I had been writing in it for over a year, and it seemed like it had served its purpose, and that it was time to do things a little differently. I asked my brother for blog ideas, and one day he sends me a WordPress blog link and says, “Do this.” It had my full name at the top!

    I took the opportunity to think over what I had been doing, and what I wanted to do in the future. I decided to stick with the blog he set up for me, and to really put myself out there, because semi-hiding hadn’t gotten me where I wanted to be.

    Of course, NOT hiding hasn’t immediately equated to putting me where I want to be, but it’s a big step in the right direction. I’ve been contacting a still small, but undeniably wider group of people. Progress is a good thing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Oh, and I spent the night before graduation at the Irish Lion.

    Tom Harold´s last blog post..NaNoWriMo – Screaming Toward 50K and No End in Sight

  18. @Tom When i think back on this post, I see how much time and energy I put into hiding. It makes me a bit sad, but then I realize this is a process that so many people go through in learning to accept who they are and what they do.

    Just recently, I added “writer” to my LinkedIn profile. That was a big step too.

    Thanks for sharing your story too, Tom… and I loved the Irish Lion (sounds like you did too) ๐Ÿ˜‰

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