I find it an infuriating fact of modern life that those of us attempting to have an office-based career have to watch our public persona carefully so as not to be deemed unprofessional. Being eccentric or having left-of-field interests is a little dangerous, as is expressing anything other than enthusiasm for all aspects of one’s job. I wouldn’t go as far to say that being ‘professional’ precludes personality entirely, but there is a wide spectrum of behaviour and interests that is best kept outside that space.
Being a writer makes this worse of course. I want to get my work out there in the public domain, but I am loath to bring it to the attention of interviewers, managers, HR, et al – not just because I’ve explored taboos, or included sex scenes, but because it’s personal.
The internet brings these two worlds together somewhat. I’ve been told a couple of times by interviewers that they had looked for me on the web. One had found things she didn’t want to know about me. I’ve no idea what, but these were not things I would have presented in the interview or on the day job. She’s looked outside of what I would have shown her for anything else she can glean, and after being successful has found my professional image somewhat tainted.
The obvious answer is to leave us to express ourselves as wonderful, varied autonomous human beings outside work, and not go digging around on the internet in simultaneous hope and fear that the professional illusion could be spoiled. Sadly, I don’t think that will happen.
But it’s a shame, I think, to be closed off and locked down and police our internet use rigorously in fear of this professional taint, because the internet has so much potential. It’s a playground of self-expression, a chance to reach out and connect with interesting people, and an important and under-rated aspect of it – it’s a source of constant hilarity.
Still, that’s the situation, so I’ve been thinking about how to manage it. I’m also keen, this year, to reach out to the writing community and make myself known, so I have decided to use a pen name and split myself into two; my civilian self and my writer self.
I’d been toying with a pen name for a while, and this is a strange thing to get used to. My main reason for using one is that my real name is a bit silly. Not awful, but not ideal. Of course, it got adapted a bit at school. Primary school kids changed it to a euphemism for farts, and I began to miss that when ruder minds at senior school thought it more suited to oral sex. In any case, it lacks of a bit of gravitas and might look a bit out of place on a Waterstones shelf.
This name, David Glass, I chose a few months ago and have been chewing it over since. It works pretty well I think, but it still gave me pause for thought when setting up this site, and renaming my Twitter. It’s just strange to start using a name that isn’t my real one. It feels like getting a tattoo – if I have success with it, I’ll need to stick with it. And if I have success with it, then it won’t feel like MY success, but this David Glass chap’s. Impostor.
So the current plan – tidy up my civvy internet presence and make no public allusions to the pen name. Blog and submit and tweet under the pen name and don’t mention the real name. Feel a bit uncomfortable about the whole process but also a little excited.
These issues can’t be new to many writers – if any are reading this, I’d love to know what you think, and what you did about it.