Writing is an amazing way of connecting with people. However, people do not connect with you in vacuum, they need connecting nodes, for example, a name, a face, a city, an institution, a hobby, anything. We always look for reference points, for like factors. For example, read this:
"Today, I went to the movie theater and watched my favorite hero. Later, I also had dinner with my friend from school."
This will give you a vague picture. However, read this now:
"Today, I went to Totem Lake cinema and watched my favorite actor Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook. I was with my friend John from the UW. Later, we drove to Mayuri in Bellevue and had chaat and ginger chai."
All made up, but you will be able to visualize it much better, especially if you live in Seattle and happen to frequent Mayuri.
The problem with this is for people like me who prefer to stay anonymous in cyber space.
When I started blogging in 2005, it must have been as a result of a late quarter-life crisis. I had finished school, had no job, was applying everywhere, the talks for an impending wedding was brewing at home, and blogging was the latest “in thing” to do. A lot of my friends moved to wordpress eventually, but inertia made me stay where I was. However, I strictly wanted no one to know about it. This way I did not fear being judged, and I could write just about anything and anyone. However, it was not a foolproof system. Anonymity is never foolproof, unless you work for the intelligence. Over and over, certain bits and bytes of information leaks out. I am not saying that it is bad, but it defeats the purpose of blogging anonymously.
Over the years, two things happened. A handful of close friends of mine started reading my blog. And then, a handful of dedicated readers became my close friends. In fact something funny happened a few years ago. A friend of mine accidentally bumped into my blog without knowing that it was me, his friend, and he wrote a nice email to “sunshine” the writer praising me. He had no idea who I was.
A particular friend of mine is a huge supporter of transparency. She thinks that there should be no curtains, and everything you write should be out there for everyone to read, because hiding takes away the authenticity. I don’t really agree with her. Just because you have nothing to hide does not mean everything is for show (the same logic why I vehemently protest against couples sharing email passwords). And then, you always have people to worry about- current employers, potential employers, potential boyfriends, could-be-s and would-be-s, curious relatives, sneaking in-laws, ex flames, current flames of those ex-flames, psychos, serial killers, identity thieves, crazy admirers, nosy neighbors; the list is long and endless. Sometimes, a little post like “I hate my roommate, she never does her dishes on time” or “I hate her boyfriend even more, he is so full of himself” can be cathartic under anonymity, but with disastrous results otherwise.
Over the years, I have always maintained an ambivalent “may be or may be not” stance towards anonymity. I did not want to write something like “My life sucks, I want to die” one stressful evening when PMS afflicts me, and then mommy calling me up frantically from
Calcutta India and asking me if I should reconsider
moving back and taking advantage of free food and free stay while I still
could. Or write about my burning desire to drive cross country and then have my
daddy force me to promise him that I would not venture into any such adventurous
mission. Sometimes, I just want to elope, from myself, from the people around
me, into this secret world of anonymity.
Now that I am delving into fiction writing after too many years of planning and procrastinating, I am having serious thoughts about this “to be or not to be” (anonymous) thing. If I turn out into a successful writer, would I still want to write anonymously? I don’t know, I really don’t know.