Becoming Real

The Evolution of a Writer

“‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’” ― Margery WilliamsThe Velveteen Rabbit

A few posts ago, I wrote an article about the importance of names and how they define a character, giving him an identity. Zealously, I harped on the value of a great name in fiction, yet in real life I’d been grappling with that same issue for my online persona. I’m pursuing a public career… what do I call myself?

You see, there was a time not too long ago, at least in my limited message board experience, that pseudonyms and anonymity were the norm in the chat rooms. No, I didn’t belong to some clandestine anarchist group, but simply a TV program fan board. I was expected to have a clever handle, and it should in no way give an indication of who I privately was. Of course, the internet was newer back then and felt more dangerous, at least to me. It still does.

Enter Facebook (this is the order of my evolution, anyway). My brother introduced me to that big cocktail party during a visit, but it took me a few months before I worked up the gumption to dive in.

Unlike any of the other boards I had dealt with, Facebook expected me to be who I was – my real self – because, after all, this was a forum specifically designed to connect with old friends and new. They had to be able to look you up, however, I didn’t want people whom I had known for like, a day (or one-night, ahem!) stalking me and wanting to be included in my day-to-day activities. I mean, there’s probably a good reason we haven’t been in touch for twenty years.

So, I put my dog’s picture up as my Facebook avatar, which alleviated my fears a smidgeon or two. As a matter of fact, my dog remains there…I think…I don’t know, a year has passed since I’ve checked in. Like I said, it’s a big cocktail party over at FB and there simply hasn’t been the time.

Enter this blog. Upon its creation, I still wasn’t comfortable putting my picture up, and since I was going to be revealing more personal issues and inner thoughts, I went with a pseudonym. Its initial purpose was to be a memoir – these years with my mother – and something that I could review later when I write a story about a woman with Alzheimer’s, perhaps her story. Even so, I was still petrified to bare any of my soul.

Then a writing buddy, Julie, turned me on to Writer Unboxed, and through them, I’ve learned about platforms, marketing, pseudonyms, avatar pictures, Facebook and Twitter accounts – all of the things necessary for a writer’s toolbox – and have found the general consensus on their site and most other respected blogs to be:  Use your real name, real picture.

M.L. Swift is born…again.

What’s the next big step? I think Twitter…down the line. Luckily, the folks at WU have recently hired a Twitter and social media expert, Nina Badzin, who recently posted on that topic and will be posting similar articles once a month.

Tweet, tweet.


ML Swift


13 thoughts on “Becoming Real

  1. I'll second the supermodel picture, Julie! Except I was thinking actress. :-)Managing pen names is a pain. Good for you going all Magic Mike on us. And while I'm sure Rameses is adorable, I'm glad you decided to use your real picture.

  2. no Facebook, no Twitter. My blog keeps me more than busy:)As for your comments on my first page, Thief Takers is explained in the book, later on, but you may have understood more than you know, and more than others have picked up. Maybe. They are after River for a reason…Thanks for visiting my blog and for commenting so much. I REALLY appreciate it:)

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Ink! I figured a) that Thief Takers was literal, and b) would be explained later. I almost hesitated to put it up there, because I thought that to be the case. That's the thing about critiquing portions that we have to keep in mind.Yeah…I had to just abandon FB. It was too time-consuming with nothing worthwhile really being done. I'll do the twitter thing after my book's finished.Thanks again for stopping in!

  4. Thanks for coming over, Egg. At first, I wrote a nod (and a link) to your great site, but it was extraneous, so I had to cut it (and about four other paragraphs of slush). I really like your blog, though, and will be passing that link along many times in the future.My blog, Julie's, and WU. Three great sites! ;o) Thanks again for following.

  5. My real doesn't roll of the tongue, and using my initials (as you have) made it gender neutral. Bad for marketing romance. Sooo Melissa Maygrove was born. Keeping my alter egos straight can be tough, but the fact that 'Maygrove' is an extinct surname eliminates the competition. *shrugs* It works for me. Thanks for visiting my blog. 🙂

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Melissa. :o) A friend and I were talking about critiques just as your article came along. Such great points.This post is my first after changing from my pseudonym. The first with my picture instead of an icon for an avatar. I was never planning to pen any books or stories under a pseudonym, but did want to journal under one if it was online. But I don't think I'll take this to the personal level I initially thought. Plus I write short stories under a screen name but have recently connected that to the blog now, too. I'm integrating all my personalities! :o) Melissa Maygrove is a fantastic name for a romance writer! It's soo Barbara Cartland. I contemplated Mike, Michael, but eventually decided that for the genres that I like to write (YA, Supernatural), ML fits best.Thanks for coming, and I'll check in from time to time! Good stuff.

  7. Mike,Ishmael? I love that pseudonym by the way. Great site and I really appreciate your suggestions over at Julie’s blog. Great blog over here and an even better discussion. On my blog I decided to go a different direction. I cannot compete with wonderful writers like you, Julie, Egg, Joe and all the rest. I did not feel that I could give writing advice. There is a wonderful aviation blog by Harrison Jones; I can’t do better than he has. So I decided to highlight those who are worthy of praise, honor and respect. Other times, I have a topic that is important to highlight and sometimes just a word of encouragement. I am finding that this blogging thing is very difficult. You guys make it look easy.I considered being someone else but I forgot who I was so I reverted back to me.Faith, Hope and Loverob

  8. Don't worry, Rob…Ish still lives at the prompt board. That's how everyone knows me. But it will now link up to this blog. I decided that further involvement in other blogs and writing ventures should use my real name.I've seen your blog. Very patriotic! I know it seems like giving advice, but I look at it as more of sharing things that I've learned or am learning on this journey. The ins and outs, ups and downs about breaking into this business. The how-to's I read, the valuable info in other venues. Sharing my experience with this as it happens, the diligence and strength of character it takes (those rejects can sting!), and the hope we all share and good will we have for our peers when they reach their goals.I think you could do that and offer up much to all!Thanks for coming by!


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