Friday, July 16, 2010

Taking on a Persona

There has been much debate about taking on a pseudonym when nonfiction writers publish their work. My two mentors, Susan and Dan, take the position of Joan Didion: "Writers are always selling somebody out." They feel like we have creative rights to our stories and shouldn't have to ask permission or hide behind a fake name to tell them. Several of us nonfiction students have, at one time or another, faltered in our faith that our families will still be around after we publish our first memoir, and every time that happens, they get more and more militant about writers having exclusive rights on their story, and the RIGHT to tell their story.

As I have progressed through the MFA program, I have slowly built up my courage to tell my story without changing names and telling details for anonymity's sake. However, I have had a strong need to construct a persona in my humor writing. I think I have always had some sort of persona in my writing, and I especially noticed this in my writing last semester. I think the motivation for me has been because there are things that I think in the course of the day that not very civil - things you wouldn't say in front of "polite company." Even though these thoughts are a little rough around the edges sometimes, it seems that these are the thoughts that my friends and family can relate to more than anything else I say. I think it's because I write and say things that other people think and feel, but would rather not share with the class.

For example, I was talking to my sister the other day about my two-year-old and about my frustration with his ongoing obsession with Thomas the Tank Engine. The only way to express how I feel when I see the same 20 episodes every week was just to say, "Thomas and Percy are the bane of my existence." Obviously, that statement is hyperbolic, but any mother of a two-year-old boy will know exactly how I feel.

So, to give myself a creative outlet without the trouble of public scrutiny, I have set up an anonymous web presence to allow myself to say whatever I feel without the censorship that I usually apply to my everyday speech. I must say, I haven't been so excited about a writing project in a while, and to be honest, I don't say anything that scandalous or foul. It's just nice to feel the freedom that comes from the absence of censorship sometimes.

1 comment:

  1. I can feel your internal struggle, and I am not the one writing the story. On the one hand, you have to live with the folks you right about so you want to give them cover, but then it is your story and changing the names doesn't change the story. What I mean is we all have imperfections and anonymity allows us to think better of ourselves, but what does that do to us as a person. If we force someone not to say what they feel or to not give it a name, what does that do? That is easier said than done. I have thought about writing about my family before, and when it comes to putting their names on paper, I start to second guess myself. I wonder if I have the story right, or is it ok for me to put down my one sided perception of the story? Maybe a reason for naming names is that it keeps us honest. It keeps the story clean of the clutter that an alias would cause.

    Tough situation.