It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
The IWSG question this month: When do you know your story is ready?
My answer: That’s a thousand dollar question. I’m sure everyone will have their own answer, but for me, a story is ready when I read it through one last time and don’t want to change anything, not a word. It’s mostly intuitive. I read the prose and try to listen to it with my inner ear. Is the word choice right? Are the sentences too clunky? Is a paragraph too long? Some short stories of mine take five or six revisions before they reach that point, and that is after the structure of the story is finalized. I don’t even want to talk about novels. Those take even longer.
And now, to my proper post, something that’s been bothering me lately. Some of you may know that Olga Godim is my pen name, not my legal name. Olga is my real-life name, but Godim was my father’s first name. He died over 20 years ago. When I first started submitting stories to publishers, in 2007, I decided to use a pseudonym, and took my father’s given name for my alias. All my fiction publications since then have been by Olga Godim.
At the time, I did it because I’ve always been shy. I was embarrassed to admit to anyone, especially to my relatives and colleagues, that I was writing fantasy fiction. It sounds odd, I know, but I was already almost 50 years old when I started, so it was, perhaps, understandable. I wouldn’t have made the same decision today but I don’t regret the choice of name I made then. In a way, it allows my long-gone father to be a part of my writing life.
Strangely, I recently began identifying with this name much more than with my legal name. I use Olga Godim in social media too. My website, my BookLikes and GoodReads accounts, my Twitter, and even my Flickr and Pinterest art collections, they all use this name. Most of the time, I feel much more an Olga Godim than the name I was born with. I even contemplated for a spell changing my legal name, but the troubling thought of changing all my documents and credit cards stopped me.
I use my legal name too, in my journalistic work – as the byline for my newspaper articles – but increasingly, it feels more and more distant, even a bit hazy. I’m becoming Olga Godim, a persona I invented, as if my mask is taking over, and I’m happy to let it. Isn’t it weird?
Does anyone who uses a literary pseudonym encounter the same paradox, or am I alone in this peculiar personality split? Am I Olga Godim or am I not? Are there two of me? It certainly feels this way, because Olga Godim is much wiser than my legal alter-ego has ever been. Olga Godim also has many more friends (online only, but still). I like her much better too. So who am I?