Should I blog under my own name?

Hi Penelope,

I have a dilemma about this topic:

The quandary is that I write about suicide.  Anonymously.  This allows me to protect my career and also avoid censoring myself.  Now that I’m gaining some readership and preparing to take my blog to the next level, I am concerned about never having a body of work to attach to my real name, because I’ve finally accepted that writing is the one thing I would regret not taking a shot at in this life.

So while it’s hard to ask, “What would you do if you were me?” because you write about taboo subjects all the time and accept the risk….what does one do if it’s all risk and extremely low potential for reward?  Start a completely different blog under my actual name with “safer” content?  Stay anonymous and continue to write what seems to matter to people, and worry about it later?  I have your words in mind:

“And one more thing. I have found that if I am nervous to post something—if I think I might look bad or reveal too much or give advice that people will hate—these are the posts that people care about, because they further my connection with people and further the conversation we’re having, and connection and conversation are the crux of linking.” 


[Name redacted]

6 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    The interface is lovely. The site is elegant. You’ve done a nice job with your site.

    You should blog under your own name. Of all the things that are terrible, doing something this good, that you are this devoted to – doing it anonymously is too close to a metaphor for suicide. So you have to use your name. To do it anonymously is to give up on everyone around you — their ability to see the site and see you for who you are. your ability to be yourself in the world and be accepted. All that stuff is really important given that the topic is suicide.

    The most important precaution to take is to be able to talk about this site in an interview. You get a job from an interview, and you get an interview from a resume. When someone reads your resume they will probably not go to the suicide site. But it might come up in an interview — they might google you before the interview or something like that. So have a good explanation for why you do it. I’m assuming you have been close to the edge. Don’t say that. Say that you write the blog because you are fascinated by how people cope with feeling like they are on the edge. You think it’s a common feeling to want to give up and it’s a special thing about humans that we don’t give up. Say general, sociological stuff instead of personal stuff. Then people will feel fine talking about it in an interview.


  2. Deborah Hymes
    Deborah Hymes says:

    Penelope, you just blew me away. Your insight that writing anonymously on this topic is a kind of metaphor for suicide — I feel like this is one of the best answers you’ve ever given. And how to handle the blog’s existence professionally. This is truly awesome advice.

    And to DownFromTheLedge, your site is wonderful. It’s astonishing to me that you are able to express yourself with such clarity and insight even in the midst of the pain that sometimes overwhelms you. You are truly gifted. If you can indeed “come out” about your blog, I think you may be surprised at the respect and affirmation you’ll receive. Count me as a new fan. ;)

  3. Robin
    Robin says:

    Ooooh…I used to blog anonymously and *wow*, the idea that it’s a metaphor for suicide stings with truth.

    The site mentioned is amazing and I could relate to much the blogger had to say.

    Link to site didn’t work for me, fyi. Thanks Penelope. Turns out this mailbag question was an answer to a question I didn’t know I had.

  4. Sadya
    Sadya says:

    Adding to what PT has said, you could say you’ve been reading alot of Sylvia Plath’s work and with that you could steer the conversation into/about literature and authors.
    You might have written about your own personal struggle on the blog and that’s probably making you nervous- that coworkers and potential employers might bring that up.
    If you have a strong professional credibility then it won’t matter. Secondly, noone might actually read ALL the posts, we tend to overestimate how damaging a secret aspect of our lives might turn out.
    And you are grossly underestimating the reward part- the personal reward as well your contribution to your readers will be immense. Go for it!

  5. Alex
    Alex says:

    I found my solution by blogging under a pen name that is very similar to my real name. That way I can choose who sees my website (you can’t find it by googling “Alexis McKenzie” – but it has my photo and it is easy to take the credit for work done by “Alex Kenzie”).

    In writing, there is a long history of authors using a pseudonym for one reason or another. I see nothing wrong with that.

  6. downfromtheledge
    downfromtheledge says:

    Really wonderful to hear everyone’s perspective on this. Penelope’s response was like a punch to the gut, and all of you have given me great advice to mull over. Much appreciated:) -Bri

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