Monday, May 16, 2011
The Creative Freedom of Anonymity
As introverts, we like to think long and hard about what we say and how we say it. We are very aware of the affect our words will have on others, and the very many different ways they can be misinterpreted. We like to practice things in private until we’ve perfected them, only then going public with our efforts.
But that preference is not necessarily the best approach for expanding one’s creative horizons. Creativity demands risk, and risk is often uncomfortable for introverts. Especially risk with an audience.
And this is where I think a bit of judiciously applied anonymity can be invaluable. Sometimes we need to be invisible before we can find and speak our truth. We know we need to take the step of speaking that truth in a public forum, where others can encounter it, but we also need an extra layer (or two) of protection to keep that oh-so-tender and unexposed skin from all that, well, exposure.
I’m not talking about sock puppets, but rather a chance to get comfortable with a new way of being, a new way of interacting with people or of speaking truth on a deeper level than you are used to.
I know a couple of different writers who found their voice by creating anonymous blogs. It gave them a platform for attempting new things—for stretching outside their comfort zones, but with a safety net. I myself created an anonymous blog many years ago when I first started blogging. I found I really wanted to get the hang of blogging and commenting on other peoples’ blogs, but in a private rather than public way. (Again, I realize this is something only introverts will get—and even some introverts won’t understand. This is for those of you who do.)
As I think I’ve mentioned before, two of my strongest books came from projects that were initially just for me; my eyes only. They were safe playgrounds where I allowed myself to take risks and push the envelope, but away from any sense of an audience or judgment. The fact that they did end up being some of my strongest work has taught me a valuable lesson. It also wasn’t until I had blogged anonymously for a few months that I found my footing with blogging. In retrospect, I probably didn’t make any huge gaffes or errors, but I couldn’t have predicted that at the time. I easily COULD have made such gaffes or errors, and if I did, no one would know, so I felt secure enough to try.
Conventional wisdom says to blog, tweet and comment under your own name, as you are trying to build a brand, fer gawd sake, and you can’t build an anonymous brand. You can, however, use anonymity to experiment until you find the brand and personality you are most comfortable with
Sometimes I find myself having similar urges with pseudonyms—I could write anything I wanted, and no one would know it was me. I could, in essence, step away from my own backstory and start fresh. In fact, that’s an interesting question to ask ourselves: What would we write if we thought no one would know it was us? Would it be different from what we’re writing now? In what ways?
How would our online persona be different if we felt it was separated by a big enough divide from who we really are? Would that feel safer? Would that safety allow us to expand our creative boundaries? Speak more closely held truths? Take more risks?
[Also, if you get a chance, please take a second to fill out the poll in the sidebar! Last week's post on the writing process was hugely popular so we're trying to get feel for including more of those types of posts. Thanks!]