Nom de plume: telling the truth, being invisible

 In The Writing Process

The Life Righting Collective’s first anthology This Is How It Is has been published by Jacana Press and is for sale in bookstores countrywide. There are 54 real life stories and poems packed between the covers; extraordinary pieces written by ordinary people with rich, vital stories to share. At various launches around the country, authors will be invited to read their stories and be acknowledged for their contribution to the anthology. However, there are six stories and poems in the anthology whose authors can never be publicly acknowledged as they have elected to use a nom de plume and remain anonymous.

Why would they do that?

What is it about these six pieces where the true identity of the writer needs to be hidden? Why is there a need to protect themselves,  their families and the people they write about? Perhaps it is because what they write about is too painful to admit to family and friends, or what they share is somehow unacceptable, taboo.

These six pieces explore topics such as mental illness and illicit love affairs, sexuality and suicide. These are not comfortable subjects, not easily spoken about and sometimes there is a struggle to even find the language to write about such things; often there is an element of shame. Nevertheless, they are realities that exist in many of our lives and I believe they need to come to the surface to be seen.

In this day and age of apparent tolerance and transparency, where the most revealing and intimate of topics can be publicly discussed online for every stranger to see, we still remain at risk for being shamed for who we are, what we think, feel and do by those who are closest to us, in our own communities.

Shame makes us especially vulnerable.

If  you have heard of  Dr Brene Brown, you will know she is a researcher on shame and vulnerability.

This is what she says:

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. 

Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen. 

I was pleased to have had the opportunity to speak about this at the recent LRC Authors’ launch at the Crypt. I’m happy I also get to write about it here and pay tribute to the courage of these anonymous authors, who despite doubt and fear of repercussions, have still stepped forward to share their powerful stories, allowing themselves and the issues they write about, to be seen and known.

Image credit: Invisible World – Magritte

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