The Importance of Being Earnest

I’ve been using a pen name for my latest project.

This is something I’ve never done in the past. Whether I’m writing a think-piece or a piece of fiction, I’ve always written it under my own name. It’s probably an ego thing- if I’m proud enough of something to see it published, then I’m much too proud to let it stand unaccredited.

But with this current project, I’d just as soon have no one realize that I was the author. It’s simply too true, and too raw, and too intensely personal to do it any other way.

It’s not a sensational tell-all or anything, but… it’s close enough.  Because there’s more of myself in this book than in anything else I’ve ever written.

More of the part of my personality that I usually pretend isn’t there. More of the dark thoughts that I’d be hard-pressed to explain without everyone thinking I was a crazy person. It’s a study on what happens inside me in the midst of a deep blue depression, or a red-hot homicidal rage.

As it turns out, all those traits that I suppress are just dying to get out and tell everyone all about where they come from. And for once I feel like I’m ready to let them out, with total honesty.

But it’s a tricky thing, isn’t it?

Think of all the books you might well be interested in reading, but would never dare to leave tucked under your arm in public. We judge the girl checking Lolita out of the library. We don’t trust the guy reading Mein Kampf on the subway. You’d bail on a date if you saw a well-worn copy of American Psycho on their bookshelf.

It’s bad enough to get caught reading about that kind of inner darkness.
It’s a lot worse to get caught writing about it.

So what do you do when you have a story to tell, and you feel like you have to tell it, and it’s about dark, sick, angry things?

Most people would probably write a work of fiction, and that would be the end of it. But only a few paragraphs into the story, I realized that I could never in a million years pass it off as pure fiction.

I’m not writing about the kind of feelings that you can make up from nothing, and I’m not fudging the details about the experiences that caused them. I’m expanding upon them, sure. Blurring the lines a little between narrative and reality, but that doesn’t change the heart of the story I’m telling. At the heart of it, the narrator of the book is me, unquestionably so. It’s disingenuous to say that this book isn’t an autobiography- even if parts of it never happened.

There was no way to hide how much truth there is in this novel. And while it’s a truth that I’m ready for the world to hear, it’s still a level of truth that I can’t comfortably share while looking the world in the eye.

For me, the only way to tell a story about who I really am inside is to pretend to be someone else.

Keep your eyes open, readers. The next strange, twisted psyche that you explore through the pages of a book could be mine.

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