Authors Anonymous

Maria Bustillos explores why a writer might be “immune to the lure of fame” and prefer anonymity:

Anonymous is more than a pseudonym. It is a stark declaration of intent: a wall explicitly thrown up, not only between writer and reader, but between the writer’s work and his life. His book is one thing and his “real” life another, and the latter is entirely off limits, not only to you, the reader, but presumably to almost everybody. Sometimes he has written about something too intimate, too scary, too real, for him to bear public scrutiny. Once the connection is known, what he has written will mark his ordinary life ineradicably. …

No book is dangerous in and of itself. A book is only a collection of words in a certain order, pages, screens, a sequence of ideas. Ideas alone can never hurt us. People only make ideas dangerous by fearing and hating them, and by vilifying and persecuting those who disagree with them. In this way, the association of a writer with his ideas can be very dangerous, even deadly. You stand a reasonably good chance of denying ever having read a book, but it’s a great deal harder to hide from having written one. Beyond this, though, lies the deeper problem for those who imagine that they can write, and yet escape a reckoning. Writers are generally fated to commit the truest parts of themselves to the page, whether they choose to own their work in public or not. That is the ultimate vulnerability, and it is inescapable.

Self-described “hack writer” Nicole Dieker offers a different logic for writing anonymously – making a living:

I am one of the unsung, invisible hacks of the internet generation. I help fill blogs and news sites and online stores with the new text those sites need every day. Within an hour I can give you the ten best celebrity wedding dresses, or a thousand words on how to get your kids to eat healthy snacks. I can ghostwrite to match your blog’s tone and style, if you need a post in a hurry. I write approximately 5,000 words per day, at various rates that average out to about $20/hour.

I can’t tell you who my clients are. Yes, in part because of the NDAs, but also because my writing, at its best, is supposed to be invisible. Take, for example, the copy you see when you log on to your bank’s website. 500 words on the importance of compound interest or CD laddering. No byline, of course. That’s the type of stuff I write. More functional than memorable. I’ve done work for dictionaries and catalogs and multiple-choice test questions. I’ve described how to French braid hair, how to reverse French braid hair, how to French twist hair, how to make a sock bun. I’ve written the introductions to probably a hundred recipes…. My goal is to continue to increase the number of words out there with my name on them, although I’m not foolish enough to think that means I’ll never have to write another hair-braiding article again. Nor, honestly, would I want to give up that type of copy work. How-to articles and byline-free content seems to be where the money is, these days.