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Author Anonymous

September 15, 2014
Oddly enough, this anonymous person looks a lot like me.

Oddly enough, this anonymous person looks a lot like me.  (Image via Wikimedia)

Being a successful author is much better than being a famous athlete/actor/singer.  A famous author can go into a restaurant without being assaulted by photographers.  In fact, a successful author can go almost anywhere and not be recognized.  I once accidentally met a famous writer at a book signing and I didn’t even recognize him until I saw the stack of books next to his table.  I thought, “Oh, THAT’S what he looks like.”

Just so you know, I don’t consider myself a successful author. I’m merely a struggling writer trying to get noticed.  But even though I’m a struggling author (with a decent job that has nothing to do with writing), I have an imagination, so I can visualize what it’s like to be a successful author.  In the meantime, though, I have to remain anonymous.

Writers who have day jobs probably should stay anonymous until they become rich (or financially independent).  If I ever get to the point when I can write something really offensive without worrying about getting fired, that’s when I’ll think of myself as a successful author.  I don’t want to get fired from my job just because I write something offensive on my blog. My wife doesn’t mind my blog and my Twitter and my ebooks, and she doesn’t mind me writing a serial romantic comedy about an ex-girlfriend, but she would mind if my writing got me fired.  She’d be pissed.

I’ve already written a few things that could get me fired.  For example, my boss (at my job that has nothing to do with writing) claims he knew the actor James Franco when he was in college.  My boss is one of those young Ivy League guys who got hired right out of college, and he acts as if he and James Franco were best friends.  When a co-worker told my boss that James Franco sucks, my boss fired him.  My boss never admitted that he fired my co-worker because of his anti-Franco comment.  Instead, my boss suddenly found lots to criticize my co-worker about after he made his anti-Franco remarks.  We can’t prove my boss fired him because of James Franco, but everybody knows it’s true.

Since I’ve criticized James Franco and his books (Palo Alto and Actors Anonymous) on this blog, I could get fired if my boss found out that I write Dysfunctional Literacy.  I’m pretty good at my job, but I’m not perfect, and if my boss wanted to, he could find something to fire me for.  As far as I’m concerned when I’m at work, James Franco was the best Oscars host ever!!!!!  And Actors Anonymous was the best book ever!!!!

It’s not just my critical views of James Franco’s books that could get me fired.  I’ve also written some stupid jokes that could probably get me fired.  Lots of people seem to get fired for tweeting bad jokes or offensive comments, and I’ve published my share.  I’ve written some bad jokes on this blog, but I’ve never tweeted them.  All of my bad jokes are too long to tweet.  Some of them are tasteless and offensive, but at least I take my time to get the punch line.  Even if the punch line sucks, I’ve always taken my time.

I’ve written porn jokes, offensive jokes, and tasteless jokes.  I’ve even written a couple funny jokes (I called them funny jokes, but I could be wrong).  But I wrote most of them when hardly anybody read Dysfunctional Literacy.  Maybe if I tweeted them, I’d get fired from my own blog (which also worries me), so I won’t do that.  I’ll just leave them up as a reminder of what NOT to do when you start a blog.

Here’s another situation that concerns me.  A teacher using a pen name wrote a futuristic book about a school shooting, and now he’s being monitored by authorities and might lose his teaching job.  To me, this teacher did everything correctly.  He used a pseudonym and set the book in a futuristic setting so that none of his writing could be associated with his employer.  Thankfully, I’m not a teacher.  I thought about it when I was in college, but I don’t like talking to people, and teachers have to talk… to kids… and that’s worse than talking to people.  I probably would not be a good fit for teaching.  With my kind of writing, I probably would get myself fired.

According to an update in the article, there is more than just the teacher’s ebooks involved, but some of that is unclear.  I’m not sure if the article is unclear or if I’m a bad reader.  To me, using fiction to determine a person’s mental state is questionable, but I’m no expert.  Either way, I hope everything works out for this teacher, unless he’s really a jerk, and I hope he doesn’t hurt anybody, including himself .

I wouldn’t want anybody to evaluate my psychological state or emotional well-being just from my writing.  I like being able to write what I want without co-workers or friends (or government officials) giving me weird looks when they see me and think I can’t see them.   If friends and acquaintances knew that I had a blog, I never would have written porn jokes and I’d have changed several sections of “The Literary Girlfriend,” and if they find out about Dysfunctional Literacy, I might decide to delete a bunch of stuff.  I really don’t want to have to explain what I write, unless I’m getting paid for it.

But most importantly, I don’t want to get fired.


What do you think?  Should people get fired for what they write?  Should I (or my co-worker) get fired for saying something bad about James Franco?  Should a teacher get in trouble for writing ebooks under a pseudonym?  Have you ever written anything that could (or did) get you fired?  What are other advantages (and even disadvantages) to writing anonymously?

  1. Wait, what? Are you trying to say Dysfunctional Literacy isn’t your real name???
    But seriously, I agree, and since I don’t plan on becoming a famous writer, and politics tends to ruffle some feathers, it’s anonymity forever for me. Or till I get fired, whichever comes first.

  2. That’s a good point and one I never thought about. So keeping up the writing and marketing my book, “En Garde; My Battle With Breast a Cancer” will not threaten my anonymity.

  3. Well obviously, since I use my real name and talk about where I live, I’m not terribly concerned about being fired for something I write. I think it is dangerous mindset to believe you could discern a persons psychology based on a work of fiction they write. All that should be determined is that the writer has a degree of imagination.

    I too thought your name was Dysfunctional Literacy. That maybe you had eccentric parents. I feel a little let down.

  4. Aww mannn… So that is why I never got that last job?!?! Haha.

    There are a lot of instructional articles on the net about ‘what not to write’ on your facebook/twitter, etc, with regards to consequential effects within the professional life of a person, and rightly so! But on the other-hand, (being a tad of joker and a slight provocatuer) having Pseudonym’s and pen-names (which is a good way to divert this kind of effect, especially in terms of professional areas) kind of ‘gets my goat’. I mean… shouldn’t these people allow for a little creative license??? And, there is also the notion freedom of expression, for us common-folk, afterall, so why on earth, should a self-penned novel or a publication, especially if fictional, (or even darkly humorous) have the power to impact a person’s life, so drastically, if innocently using their own creative license to earn a bit of pocket money along side their chosen vocation???
    Like I say… Gets my frickin goat……

    Whatever the heck that actually means?!?!?
    Nice post Dysfunctional Literacy!!
    I’m becomming an avid reader of your blog.

  5. lexc13 permalink

    My whole thinking on this is to know how and when to expose certain things. I strive for a good balance between being honest and true to my writing while trying not to be offensive. I go by nicknames for certain online profiles and have accounts dedicated to specific work. But I have many accounts linked and do not attempt to hide my identity. I’d rather start to deal with friends, family and whoever reading my work and questioning or judging me for it now. I think I should really have to explain myself and If they judge me for it or think different of me that’s their issue. If I lose my job for it, that’s the sacrifice I have to make to get where I want to be. I spent too much time holding myself back because I was worried what others would think of me or my writing. Just can’t do it anymore.

    • lexc13 permalink

      *shouldn’t have to explain myself (though I’m sure it may happen if things are misunderstood, which is why I’m very careful with my words)

  6. My question is: how does one decide a pseudonym should be used? I haven’t been fired for anything I wrote, but 10 years after working in a casino I am a bit concerned for what happens when my casino novel sees the light of day. Do I use a pseudonym? There was (and probably still is) a lot of illegal activity there that I drew upon as material. I’ve changed names and places but… And then there is the total fiction that I invented. Drawing from unique life experience blurs the lines of fiction. Should an author worry about the identity of their readers?

  7. dreamfarming permalink

    That article about the middle school teacher was confusing. He must not have been very secretive about his pen name. I can understand why a teacher would want to write under a pen name. As a teacher he would never be able to write anything risky without being scrutinized by his employers. If you are going to write anonymously you should change your whole name. Not just your last name. If he didn’t do anything but write a few books than he hasn’t done anything wrong. Perhaps he is pretending to be under arrest in order to drum up sales on amazon.

    • dreamfarming permalink

      After a bit more reading it seems he is not in trouble over his books but over a letter he wrote to his boss and a possible relationship with a minor. Either way people should not be arrested for writing fiction. I think staying anonymous is a safe bet

  8. I don’t think people should get fired for what they write, but I wouldn’t be surprised if/when they do. People get fired for what they post on Facebook too sometimes. What would suck is if someone with your name wrote something really offensive and they fired you for it.

    • I’ve heard that proving a negative is pretty tough. I’d hate to prove that I didn’t write something with my name on it. My only proof would be that I never put my name on what I write.

  9. Unapologetic Octopus permalink

    I just started my blog and right now im thinking that having a pseudonym is a good idea. But i guess it really depends on what kind of a social person you are. For example, are you comfortable to share your deepest thoughts about the most taboo topic to people you just, or not even met? If yes, good for you. If not, hell me too.
    Btw, sounds like your boss is a dick. Just like James Franco. Nah im kidding, i dont know james that well. 😉

  10. rkbrainerd permalink

    I’m currently struggling with whether or not to use a pseudonym with my books in an effort to separate my professional author life with…my professional rest of my life. I’ve wanted to write my whole life, but realize that it’s probably unrealistic I’ll be able to support myself financially that way.

    I was going to start my blog using a pseudonym and everything but in a moment of confidence decided to basically use my own name. Why should I have to sensor what I say, it’s just fiction? However, I’m starting to wonder if that wasn’t the best idea. People will judge no matter if we wish them to or not, even if they try not to.

    Your boss does suck, however. And perhaps is a blatant example of why it can be pretty smart to try to have a barrier of safety between being so vulnerable (as writing tends to be) and a work/professional atmosphere where there is usually some sort of front expected.

  11. I was once threatened with losing my job just for READING science fiction (on lunch break — I didn’t read when I was supposed to be working). I lived in a part of the US where too many people equated science fiction with witchcraft. (Yeah, not making that up.) I was also once caught reading a novel about a guy who traveled around in a spaceship (Tuff Voyaging, by GRRM, if you care), and someone who saw me reading it exclaimed, “Science fiction! You mean like witchcraft?” Besides, writing stories set on other planets is a sign of mental illness, because there are no other planets, right? *rolls eyes*

    I don’t[ think people should get fired for what they write, but I also don’t think they should get fired for being the “wrong” religion (or having no religion), or for being unmarried, or for anything that has nothing to do with their job.

    “Being a successful author is much better than being a famous athlete/actor/singer. A famous author can go into a restaurant without being assaulted by photographers. In fact, a successful author can go almost anywhere and not be recognized.” Y’know, I very nearly blogged about this last week.

    I think I’d convinced myself years ago that no one recognizes even their favorite authors in person because I wanted that to be true. I want a successful writing career without people looking at me. I’m the World’s Most Gregarious Hermit, or something like that. 🙂 The thing is, even before the internet, there were author photos on the dust jackets of books; these days, writers are more or less expected to have pics of themselves on their blogs and whatnot. I hate it. I don’t want anyone judging me solely based on what I write (but please judge the WRITING based on the writing), but I don’t want to have to plaster my entire life on the internet for all and sundry to see, either. I want success, not fame, if that makes any sense.

  12. Reblogged this on kingsleyosam and commented:
    yea, really true

  13. What will you do if you ever walk into a B&M Booksellers and find people taking selfies with a life-size cardboard cut out of you?

    • I’d photobomb it. I seem to have a talent for it. I’m the type of person nobody notices until I’m already in the picture. I wonder if people would notice a life-sized cardboard cutout of me. It would be ironic (I think) if people noticed the cardboard cutout of me but not the real living person.

      • Or you could (after they’ve taken their pictures and failed to notice you) look at the cardboard cut-out and say, “Nope — I’m much taller in real life” (or something to that effect), and then walk away.

  14. I use a pseudonym at my job. Saves time and worry.

  15. I like James Franco a lot, but he wasn’t a great Oscar host. I haven’t read his books.

  16. How dare you offend James Franco? Burn in Hell.

    Since I write mostly about the writing craft, I don’t mind sharing my name out there. It’s also good for my business. But nothing that I write would harm my day job status. If I were to write a satirical blog though, I’d choose a pseudonym for effing sure.

    • I was just worried about getting fired, but now I have to worry about burning in hell too? I don’t know which would be worse. Well. actually I do, but still…

  17. I think it’s hilarious that I started following you after the “interesting” parts of The Literary Girlfriend. I can picture you humorous but never obscene. Guess I should go to the beginning of the blog.

  18. accidentaleuphoriagirl permalink

    I once rode a horse who I nicknamed James Franco because he was angsty and hated to be groomed.

    I am a teacher and a writer and sometimes reference my vagina (in a totally appropriate way) which could still probably definitely get me fired. I write as my alter-ego, but it is still often nerve wracking and I feel a bit offended that I have to hide my non-work life.

    • I hesitate to ask this question (and am trying to ask in a tactful way), but when you reference that body part in a totally appropriate way, do you do so as a writer or a teacher?

      • haha, both. I once had to give a “period talk” to a group of 5th grade girls, which was interesting. Generally though, I reference it more as an author than as a teacher.

  19. Randi permalink

    I’m a writer too. I totally agree about that first part, that you don’t get bombarded with people wanting pictures or autographs. Although if that ever does happen, I already have it planned that I’ll say, “I can’t let you take pictures of me now; I have to get home to write!”

  20. I’m pretty “Google-able” and I work in education, so it’s definitely a concern. A co-worker uses a pseudonym for his Facebook account and a local podcast he does weekly. At the same time, I feel like my bosses just don’t care enough to Google me, unless they’re already trying to fire me for something.

    I’m do my best to only censor myself out of a desire for some semblance of personal decorum rather than concerns about employment. I can always get another job, and if they’re going to fire me for unrelated shit I’m doing outside of work, I’d rather not work there anyway.

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