PEN NAME AND PRIVACY.
Writing under a pen name was my conscious choice. Now, while launching my first book under that pen name has given me an opportunity to ponder over the ethics and propriety of using a pen name. I would like to share my thoughts about it. In addition , I would also like to discuss the reasons for choosing this particular pen name.
I have been toying with the idea of writing a novel since my college days. At that time ,I was in awe of several writers. However , I was determined not to write like them. I wanted authenticity of my own experiences and originality of my own ideas to come through my novel. Strangely , when I attempted to write during my college years , I was struck by two deficiencies in my writing. Firstly , I found myself echoing my favorite writers’ style. Secondly ,whenever I consciously tried to write original matter , it turned out to be preaching in disguise of novel. I decided at that time to postpone the whole exercise till I had acquired such skills. In retrospect , I think the deciding factor was my own ego ( or rather its dominance). My insistence on originality was camouflage of my ego. However ,I was not aware of this at that time. As my career entered a hectic phase , the urge to be a writer receded into background.
With passage of time , and after few professional setbacks , I was forced into reviewing my life and my own priorities. I realized that I needed to analyze myself and try to understand what could have gone wrong with my life. In the process of self analysis ,I realized that the best way to do it would be to articulate my own feelings. That realization revived my urge to be a writer. Thus began this phase of my career.
Since my attempt to write a novel was prompted by my need for self analysis , I made a conscious choice of eliminating all my personal details from the narrative. The process of writing such self analytical piece is rather complex. One may remove personal details but what about personal emotions ? If I were to remove my own emotions as well ( in fact the whole mélange of them) how could I achieve self analysis ? That is where I discovered the merits of catharsis and universality of human experience. I realized that good literature works because it integrates with the reader’s emotional ecosystem( due to its universality) and induces catharsis in that emotional ecosystem. Therefore a novelist has to create a universal expression out of his / her private experience and allow the newly created expression to run it’s natural course. The novelist becomes a passive observer of that universal expression as it unfolds itself in all its intricate details.
If this is how creative writing comes about , why should writer hide behind a pen name ? When I look back ,I see two considerations that prompted me to assume a pen name. First reason was of course a personal one. The issue of privacy is not straightforward. To begin with ,I am a private person by temperament. I am comfortable remaining in the blurred background without being noticed by anyone. In that sense ,writing under a pen name is my natural response. Moreover , there are large number of people with whom I have professional and personal associations. It would be natural for readers , who have known me otherwise , to infer parallels between my personal life and the narrative unfolding in the book. In my opinion this is inevitable and unfortunate. The best solution is to write under a pen name. That itself would protect my acquaintances from any imputations.
Second reason for my decision to write under a pen name is social one. In my opinion , creative writing is a specific skill. It does not confer any special wisdom on its practitioners. However ,should any writer acquire success and recognition because of his/ her skills , that individual is tempted to assume the role of social commentator ( and worse social reformer). I admit that such a fallacy is human. However , I am very clear that these two roles must be kept separate and at least I ought not to transgress my role of being a writer and should never assume the second role. The best way to do that is to remain incognito. That would ensure that media would never be focused on me and I would never be tempted to arrogate the role of a wise man. I am , let me admit ,just a narrator .
I referred to my earlier attempt to write and my realization that my notion of originality was a camouflage for my ego. With the passage of time I have travelled to diametrically opposite position. My choice for opting for a pen name seems to be an exact negation of that egoistic position. However , when I look back I do not see any such moral evolution in my perspective. I am still full of myself. I have moved from autonym to pseudonym , but my journey from pseudonym to anonym has yet to begin. That evolution would begin when I internalize this majestic universe in my psyche and create a hymn in its beauty. Presently it is human predicament that occupies my sensibility and I would devote my creative writing to that predicament. My ego has expanded to include various facets of human angst but it is still egocentric. My journey from egocentric to epic has not even begun. In that sense , my opting for pen name is just a first tentative step to that cosmic perspective. I now realize how great the writers of our scriptures must have been. They experienced not just the universality of human experience but also the unity of human experience with the cosmos itself. They did not need even a pen name. I have reached to level of pen name from my personal name. I hope to travel to the level of anonymity and narrate the universe in all its majesty one day.
Once I had made up my mind about writing under a pen name , the question of what that pen name must be arose. I toyed with several possible names. Finally I realized that the pen name must reflect the fact that I began as an avid reader and only then transformed into a writer. My empathy is always with the readers. My writing is more of an attempt to connect with the readers than to provide any wisdom. In that sense, the name “ Vaachakmitra “ seems suitable. I see myself as a reader who graduated from being a reader to being a writer. In that sense my pen name symbolizes my kinship with readers.