This is a post I've gone to write many, many times, then have stopped myself because I don't want to come across as a drama queen. But I guess it needs to be said.
There's more than one reason why I don't use my real name on my patterns, books, on this website, and well, in general. And I ask publishers not to use my real name for those same reasons.
As much as I may share more personal details of my life than other bloggers there's still an awful lot that you don't know about. Like the time I had an online stalker. Someone who I innocently got talking to online and someone who took their interest in my far too far. Like working out what street I lived on, and where I worked. I won't go into the specifics of it, but needless to say, this incident scrared the heebies out of me.
Now, as much I like to think this person isn't looking for me anymore, it taught me an important lesson. That there are some things you need to keep private to ensure your own personal safety. Like your address, telephone number and even your real name. It's common sense, no?
Over the years I've had a number of unpleasant things happen to me. Some of them downright nasty and upsetting. Some of them I've told you about, some of them I haven't. In some cases, one of the only ways to move on was to leave that part of my life behind but if people keep telling Google who I am, that makes this difficult, and it leaves me feeling insecure and vulnerable. And I don't think anyone wants to feel like that.
But there's more to my reasoning than my own personal fears and difficulties. Let's use my teaching experience as an example.
One of the main reasons teachers use 'Miss' or 'Mr' or any other title, normally alongside their surname, is that it creates a barrier between yourself and your pupils. It allows you to create a persona that not only helps you efficiently teach but it also helps you switch off and be yourself outside of the job. Without this barrier the teacher/pupil realtionship becomes much too personal and without it many a teacher would either quit or breakdown. It's an absolute must to be able to have your private time and space, and in a job where you are constantly facing the public (whether in teaching or some other vocation) that's hard to do unless you draw the line somewhere.
I was a well liked and good teacher. I got on with the kids, and to some extent that was because I was able to tell them some things about myself, some things that allowed them to see me as human and build a connection with me. We could talk and we could laugh but they always respected me and 9 times out of 10 did as they were told because there was that line. When that line wobbled or faded, teaching (and discipline) got difficult.
In this sense, there's little difference between my former teaching self and my blogging/designing self. My online persona is just that, and no matter what I say here (and what I say here I would say to anybody) there's still things I keep private. And not using my real name is a big part of that.
It's not as if I don't want people to know who I am; many people do and I don't want to come across as rude or indifferent. Yet when I'm at shows or when I'm teaching workshops, I wear my online persona. I'm Woolly Wormhead on those days, and I have to be honest and say I find it a little uncomfortable when complete strangers come up to me and talk to me by my real name as if they knew me. It doesn't happen often, and I'm always happy to talk to people even if I am a little shy. When asked I will say what my real (first) name is - that's not the issue.
Unfortunately though, my real name is creeping out more and more, and that's why I'm writing this post. Part of the problem may be because I got more relaxed a while back about my name and not wanting to be a complete arse, didn't have words with too many people. Part of the problem may also be that as my reputation (and business) grows there are more places where I get mentioned, and many of those don't know about my want for annonymity or simply don't ask. I wouldn't have given them my name but they still publish it anyway. I've had one woman at one website argue with me, and insist on using my real name, because she Googled me and there were a number of related hits, including this website. But if you look more closely, this website only comes up as a related keyword search - search within the website and you won't find my full name. The other links were from those who used my name without my consent, whether innocently or not. To argue this as good grounds for ignoring my privacy is disrespectful, I think. And pretty arrogant too.
At times I have wondered whether I should let the issue go but each time I see my name in print or online it makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel exposed and vulnerable and as much as I've tried I simply can't get used to it. However, if and when I ever get comfortable with the idea, it will be my choice and not something some else decides for me. Did you know, under UK law at least, you can be known by whichever name you choose? It may not be usable on legal documents but it doesn't have to be your birth name. So long as you're not trying to commit fraud you're perfectly entitled to be called what the heck you want. A good friend has told me that I may be able to make Woolly Wormhead my legal alias and will look into that. I'm not the first and won't be the last that wants to keep their real name private and their pseudonym public, so I wouldn't be surprised if there were more laws to allow you to do this.
And so I am kindly asking publicly that anyone, be it a website or magazine or book publisher, please be respectful of my wish and help me keep my privacy. Sure, use my real name when we talk privately especially if we know each other well! But please don't publish it online or in print. In the greater scheme of things, it's not much to ask. I don't want to be an arse or a drama queen, I simply want to be able to switch off and be myself when I need to.