Have you ever published something completely anonymously? What were your reasons behind it? If it was out of timidity or fear, was it something your best self would have done? For a long time, I thought some level of anonymity on this site was a good thing, but that time has come to an end.
This wasn’t an easy article to write for me. In fact, out of the hundreds of articles I’ve written for Byteful Travel, this was probably the most challenging to write, but this is an article whose time has come.
Trying to Avoid a Non-Problem
First, I’ll give you some context for how events have led up to the point where I finally dropped anonymity.
In Byteful Travel’s early days, going by “Byteful Traveller” seemed to be a natural step. But after a while, I realized that this wasn’t especially memorable or a good reflection of who I was. So, after much research and reflection, I choose the pen name “Andärin”, which was a Spanish word that meant “walker” or “wanderer”. I liked the feel of it; and for a time, I felt good about using it. After all, I wasn’t the only blogger using a pen name, right?
At the time, I felt this pen name worked well. I liked the idea of the anonymity, and I’d never liked the idea of fame, even teenie-tiny internet fame. I was afraid of it. Sometimes my imagination would run away with me, projecting out scenarios where people I didn’t know approached me on the street, telling me their opinion of my work and who I was, even though they didn’t know me at all. (Admittedly, I was letting my imagination have a bit too much free reign over my mind.)
I thought that a pen name and forgoing using a photo of myself on this site would be an elegant way to avoid that problem. At the time, I felt as though it would simplify my life in some ways. After all, with page views still going up, why should it matter?
Yet over the course of 2011, the feeling that the pen name was actually more rooted in fear than logic kept nagging at me more and more. When I faced these feelings head on, I realized that the writer I wanted to become would not tolerate this kind of lingering feeling. For some people, maybe a pen name is all they’ll ever need. Maybe they’ll always feel great about it. But the more I wrote, the more I realized that it just wasn’t right for me.
Eventually, a horrifying thought came to me: I was hiding behind my sense of anonymity. Being anonymous wasn’t making my life simpler. Instead my life felt more awkward. It became more and more clear to me that, for me, the pen name was a false barrier getting between me and the people I wanted to serve. I wasn’t being my full, true self. When mentioning the site to friends, I felt an inner resistance whenever I explained that I was using a pen name.
When I felt this gut reaction too many times, I knew it was time for a change. But I didn’t make the change. At least, not at first.
It wasn’t until last week, when I returned home from Steve Pavlina’s Conscious Success Workshop, that I had the resolve to make the change. One of the most memorable concepts from the workshop was the idea of “tigering it”, which means charging towards a goal similar to how you would use tiger style in martial arts. (In fact, this was so well-received at the workshop that one of the attendees bought small stuffed-animal tigers for everyone there.)
Basically, using tiger style means you focus all of your energy on the attack and not worry about defense. As you can probably imagine, this is pretty wild to see in person, and a running joke is that if two martial artists use tiger style on each other, one will end up going to the hospital while the other one will end up dead!
As you can probably guess, the Tiger style attitude can be extremely useful when it comes to completing projects, too. If you take a lot of action and avoid succumbing to over-analysis, you can accomplish things that may have seemed impossible before, and usually in much less time. So when I returned home, I “tigered it” and removed the pen name from the site. I didn’t even know what the next step was after that, but I knew I had to do it. And the rest of the steps flowed from there (including uploading a picture of myself). The workshop was the final nudge that had pushed me over the edge, and I’m so thankful for that. (And thanks to everyone who was there for creating such an amazing atmosphere and promoting so much growth in all who attended. You guys really are the salt of the earth.)
Embracing the Odyssey & A ChallengeHello.
My name is Andrew, and I don’t believe I’ve properly introduced myself before. The reason for this was rooted in fear. I was letting irrational fear inform my actions. I wasn’t acting like my best self would act, but that changes today. (2012.07.07 note: And if you’re curious, yes “Crusoe” is my real last name, yet another element of myself that makes me wonder if I might have popped out of a book at some point.)
And while “Andärin” may have been a cool pen name (someone once said it sounded elvish), it wasn’t me. This is also the first time I’ve shared a picture of myself on a public website, so this is outside of my comfort zone. But I’ve decided that, as long as there are intelligent reasons to do so, I’m going to push myself to do things that scare me and put me outside of my comfort zone more often, because it’s more likely to help others (and help me grow, as well).
After writing periodically on here for years, I’m ready to be my full self, publicly. Not only does it help with credibility, but it also helps me connect with you guys, my readers, on a much deeper level. From where I stand now, I feel that a pen name was a barrier to that. Overall, I feel a lot better having done this. “Tigering It” certainly changed my life, and I appreciate your support as I get used to this new level of transparency. Life is too short to be controlled by fear. Life is too short not to be our full, genuine selves — boldly and courageously.
So my challenge to you is this: if you’ve been creating anything under a pen name (or anonymously), have you consciously examined your real reasons for doing it? What would it mean if you embraced your work and took full ownership of it? Unless you’re doing guerrilla journalism in an oppressive country, it’s highly doubtful that you’ll be harmed for exercising your free speech, so what are you waiting for? Is it possible that embracing a higher level of transparency will be a relief to you on some level (and perhaps push you to do better work, as well)? What would your life be like if you took full ownership of everything you created? What would your best self do?
Just think about it.
We have an incredible year coming up, and the journey has only just begun. Coming up, we touch California redwoods within Muir Woods Natl. Monument, as well as a get a stunning view of the San Francisco Bay from the top of Mount Tamalpais. And after that, we explore Las Vegas, so be sure to subscribe and stay in touch. 🙂