It occurred to me one day that my pen name is a shield. I think it occurred to me because I realized I feel like a different person when I attend a writers' conference or mystery convention and wear a name tag that says I'm Kaye George. I used to register under my real name, Judy, then found there was some confusion signing in, so I now have a bank and PayPal accounts for my DBA of Kaye George. Keeps it simple.
Maybe the reason I can be braver as Kaye is because she isn't really me. Kaye, as far as most people know, is the one who writes the books. She can get up on a platform before dozens of people and expound on…whatever they want her to expound upon. Kaye doesn’t need to be nervous or fear she'll fail to entertain people. I think that's because she's a layer that I put between me and everyone at the conference. She's my false front.
I recently went through this Ted Talk and found it aligns with what I do.
After I thought a bit more about this presentation, I realize that I also had a similar life experience. I never felt I wasn't smart enough in school. I felt I was too smart, and people wouldn't like me. With my acne, my extreme skinnyness and gawkiness, I just knew no one wanted me for a friend. To top that off, I played in the geeky orchestra, not the cool band. I remember walking down the hallways between classes and looking carefully at the floor, afraid to meet the eyes of my classmates, afraid that if I said Hi, no one would say Hi back to me. I looked forward to going to college and making a new start.
However, when I got to college, I acted the same way at first. I saw other people making new friends and wondered how they did that. I got to the nadir—considering suicide. Thank goodness for my Aunt Kathryn, who is now long gone. I thought through all the details, then imagined the satisfying reactions of everyone I knew. They would be SO sorry they hadn't been nicer to me. But then I got to Kathryn. I clearly saw the disappointment in her face, so I backed off. I watched other people and came to the point where I thought, What's the worst that can happen? If I say Hi to someone and he or she doesn’t say Hi back, it won't hurt anything. Imagine my surprise when I found that almost everyone DOES say Hi back.
I'm been doing it ever since. Somewhere in there is still that shy, inadequate, unlikeable young girl, but she's plastered over, not only with the outgoing, sociable Judy, but with another layer or Kaye George. It's all good.
If my experiences can help ONE other shy person to either break out of the shell, or bury it beneath a sunny new personality, it will be awesome.
photo from morguefile.com