Thursday, December 29, 2011

Anonymity Is Sometimes A Writers Best Friend

As a writer I have the underlying fear that nothing I write will ever be read. Or worse, that once read it will be quickly discarded with the day's rubbish. I long for my words to be lauded, praised, shared amongst friends and discussed at the dinner table.

Like many writers I know, it's not my name I want bantered about, but my words. I don't care if they know who wrote the words they are quoting, as long as they find the words worthy of quoting in the first place.

This is hardly a new idea:

Anonymity and pseudonymity have a long history. We think of medieval authors laboring anonymously, but even the first age of literary celebrities, the 18th century, was also paradoxically an age of anonymity. Book historian James Raven estimates that "over 80 percent of all novels published in Britain between 1750 and 1790 were published anonymously." Given that only Henry Fielding (best known for "Tom Jones") of the major 18th century novelists put his name on the title page, we ought to think of anonymity as the default position for the novel, thought to be a low form.

Writers have long used a pseudonym to hide behind. Sometimes it was because they feared their words would bring down retribution from political leaders and sometimes it was because they didn't want their innermost thoughts and beliefs known to others.

Again, for these writers it was the words which mattered most, not the authorship.

Today, with the increasing popularity and ease of self-publishing via ebooks, it seems everyone is seeking the "fame" of being a published author. I have no problem with that. In fact, I am working on my own ebook. But I believe it is important to note that all you need to do to be a writer, is write.

However, the immortality achieved by authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen (to name only a few) had nothing to do with the name on the cover, but rather with the quality of the content.

I suggest everyone with a desire to be a "writer" examine their exact motivations and recognize that not everything that goes into print is worth the paper it's printed on (or the e-reader.)

Click here to read more about the history literary anonymity from Robert Folkenflik.

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