Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What Should I Do With My Multiple Identities?

While bouncing around some of my older posts the other day, I saw a question in the comments that went something like this: "I have several different identities online. How should I handle those while building my online platform?"

That is an excellent question, but my first answer would be: Don't create several identities in the first place.

A lot of writers are so ready to be someone else that they feel the need to create pen names like crazy. I'd advise against doing this unless you are in a situation in which it is completely necessary.

For instance, I met a poet in Austin earlier this year who created a pen name because his job as a professor prevented him from publishing anything (including poetry) under his name unless it was approved by the university. I can understand changing your name under such circumstances. I can also understand creating a pen name at the suggestion of an agent or editor to help with sales.

However, I don't understand creating several identities without a good reason. It can get really confusing really fast.

That said, the best way to handle separate "brands"--because that's what you're essentially creating--is to have separate platforms. This means each persona should have a separate website, blog, social media accounts, etc. It's a lot of work, but there are ways to make it easier.

One way is to manage your social media accounts with a tool like Hootsuite, Seesmic, or Tweetdeck. Here are a couple reviews comparing these tools:
Also, it's smart to study how someone who's successfully pulling off multiple identities does it. The first contemporary person who comes to mind for me is Julianna Baggott, who actually has at least three identities: Julianna Baggott, N.E. Bode, and Bridget Asher. (Click here to check out her website.)

But like I said, I think life is a whole lot simpler when we can just be ourselves 24/7.


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If you're here about how to handle actual multiple personalities, then here are some resources you might find useful:


Joshua Gray said...

You know me as my pen name, but I have a real name too. I have recently discovered the some issues with having pen names -- such as everyone locally knows me in my poet persona as Joshua Gray, but now that they have asked me to fill out an application to be on the arts committee, which name do I use? And what if I am applying for a position that marries my IT life with my poetry life? These are things I didn't take into account early in my writing career.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Those are good points and questions. While I've never liked Bob, I have used other variations of Robert over the years--until college. It was there that I received some great advice from my student advisor, who went MIA after my freshman year of college. He asked me what I went by, and I said something like, "Robert," "Rob," or "Robby." Then, he told me to pick a name and stick with it. So, I've been "Robert Lee Brewer" in my bylines ever since.

Gabriel Gadfly said...

I've been Gabriel Gadfly ever since I launched my website, although that's not my real name. It's the name all my writing is known under, so if I were asked to be on an arts committee, I think I'd sign up as Gabriel Gadfly. If they required a legal name, I'd give it, but ask to be referred to as Gabriel Gadfly in all public correspondence.

I can't see that it'd be any benefit to them to list you under your legal name if you use a pen name, anyway -- presumably, members of an arts committee have accomplished something artistically, and if there's nothing out there under your legal name, it doesn't bring anything to the committee to use it.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Good advice, Gabriel. That said, Joshua, I'd still use your legal name for filing tax forms--unless you register your pen name as a business entity with its own unique identification number.