I do keep coming back to the problem of names and identity and authority, so forgive me if I am repeating myself slightly, but it is an issue that continues to run through my head at different angles. (these are just a few times I’ve approached it in the past).
Our names are one of the most intensely personal things about us. They can form the basis for our whole identity and people can get remarkably possessive over them. Names have magic and power. Cultures around the world have traditions of evil powers taking control over people by the use of their name – witches and wizards. Rumpelstiltskin was banished when his true name was revealed. To this day, many modern religions have taboos over the naming of god, thinking his “true name” is too sacred to speak aloud. Some feel it is considered bad luck to name a child before it is born, whilst in Christian traditions, children are baptised and formally made known to their god.
People often say “that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”, but really, Romeo is railing against the inevitable: it is Juliet’s “name that is [his] enemy”. No matter how he might wish it otherwise, they cannot be together because of what they are called. (And part of me suspects that she wouldn’t smell so sweet if calling her a rose didn’t make her so unobtainable).
We obsess over genealogy and family trees and our ancestors. We spend our lives with the names our parents give us, some more fortunately than others. I kid you not, I went to school with a Neil Down and a girl called Muffin. All through my childhood I thanked my parents for giving me a name that could not become a nickname, despite people’s best efforts to the contrary. At the same time, part of me does think it would be nice to have a nickname because they are signs of affection. Someone did call me Mercedes and refused to explain when others got confused. It was a joke between me and him and it felt all the more special for that.
In the end, I have given myself a nickname of sorts – Cas. The first few times someone said “do you want a cup of tea Cas?” and used the name to my face, it felt slightly odd, but I like it. What started out as just a way of keeping my ‘real’ identity secret, has become something more. Something I am very, very attached to. It has become a concrete identity in the last few years, crossing over from online mask to reality, and a name with its own weight of Bright Meadow and whatever attached authority has accrued, behind it.
Cas and CLK are now firmly linked – google one and you get the other, something which was a semi-conscious decision on my part. As the online became so intertwined with my offline life, it became harder and harder to keep the two separate, so I gave in gracefully and claimed as much of the CLK identity online as I could. It is still something I debate constantly though, and there are instances where I wish it hadn’t happened. There are times I wish my father didn’t read Bright Meadow, but at the same time, I do not like compartmentalising my life to the degree it would have required to keep it all apart.
So I tread a fine line between Cas and CLK, online and offline. Most of the time the two aren’t even distinct entities. Cas wears jeans to the office and has awesome tattoos, but it is CLK who answers the phones, draws up the contracts and is a consummate professional.
Names are important, clearly. Names of people, names of things. Names become brands and authorities and you build trust in a particular name. Which is where I finally get to my (sort of) point:
If, and it is a BIG if, I do ever finish what I am writing and go down the path of publishing, do I want my author-part to be linked to the rest? Do I want the world and their shark to hop from CLK the author, to Cas and Bright Meadow and all the attached kit’n’kaboodle? Or do I want something completely fresh, without a history. Do I want to write under a pseudonym? Is publisher CLK compatible with author X? I can hear a future editor yelling at me for tipping a whole pre-built brand down the toilet here, but is Bright Meadow a legacy an author could be proud of? Note, I am not saying *I* am not proud of it, but would it help or hinder in that sphere?
I stand by everything I have said on this blog, but I can think of more than a few things in the archives which would get one audience or another hot under their conservative collars. As an author, would I not also be entitled to a part of the web where I *could* unload and talk about the price of tea, if I so wished, without feeling the pressure of my audience? If CLK was to get published, Bright Meadow would come out regardless. I am not ready to loose this place as my sanctuary.
But do I want to create a whole NEW identity for my writing? I want to talk about it, god damn it! If it were ever to happen, getting a book published would be like the biggest blog event EVA!!!!! and to not share it with you lot here? Unthinkable. I want to think that one day someone from school might see “CLK” on the spine of a book in a bookshop and be jealous/proud.
For now, my gut reaction is gurgling “pseudonym” but am I right? Am I being silly? Am I being dishonest to my family, denying them seeing Kemp in print, refusing to connect part of my (potential) accomplishment to the name they graced me with when I was brought into this world. To go for a pseudonym, is that not saying “CLK is not good enough”?