Personal vs. Professional Boundaries: Why I Used a Pen Name for Five YearsBlog / Produced by The High Calling
Last week I announced the startling blog-revelation that I had been writing under the pen name of Bradley J. Moore for the past five years. My new e-book, "At Work as it is in Heaven" had just been released by Patheos Press, and I decided to use the opportunity to reclaim my true identity, J. B. Wood.
Although some were surprised, I can’t say the twittersphere was exactly burning up in gossipy shock. I’m not that important, and the switcheroo wasn’t such a big deal.
All the same, for those who have followed my writing, it certainly begged the question: why did I feel the need to use a pen name to begin with? Was I trying to hide something? Was I embarrassed to be transparent with my friends and co-workers? Was I leading a secret double-life?
Several years ago I had authored a business book, which is one thing. But now approaching midlife, I felt called to write from a deeper space, to dig around in my soul a bit and produce something more true and substantial than the typical know-it-all business advice. The problem was, however, I wanted to share it with the world - not just as a professional, but as a person.
But was it possible to reconcile my role as a discreet professional while still baring my soul?
I was a little skittish about revealing my inner thoughts for fear that they might not gel with my professional image. I do have one, after all. I’ve worked hard for it over twenty five years, and it’s important enough not to screw it up with some stupid personal venting. That kind of thing happens all the time. Plenty of people have gotten fired over some nonsense they posted on a personal blog.
We are all familiar with the gaping disconnect between Facebook and Linked In, a harsh demarcation between our personal and professional personas. Many of my Linked In colleagues wouldn't dare allow co-workers access to their Facebook page, and I wholeheartedly understand. Do people at work need to know that I went to that Radiohead concert? Do I really want everyone to see my fat gut? Will my occasional faith-based comments come off as fanatical?
Once you jump on the social media train, the line between personal and professional gets quite sloppy.
Most of the blathering you see on the internet comes from the unemployed, self-employed, freelancers, or those who work in social media. What do they care? The gainfully employed managers, however, are under greater scrutiny. And the higher up you go in management, the greater the expectation for maintaining professional boundaries.
So I suppose it seemed a risky proposition, this quest to balance transparency with professional appropriateness.
Which is why I chose a pen name.
Now that the cat’s out of the bag, though, I am certainly a little more careful about what I say. But I’m not going to stop writing.
Before I signed the publishing contract with Patheos, I brought the manuscript to my boss, the CEO, and asked him to carefully read it. “If you see anything at all in this material that is going to have a negative professional impact, please tell me,” I said, “and I won’t publish it.”
A couple days later he got back to me. “It’s fine.” He said.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “You don’t think people will look at me differently?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s who you are,” he said, “and there’s no reason to hide that.”
Yes, I suppose he has a point there.
I hope you get a chance to pick up the e-book and see what I’m talking about. It’s the real me in there, both the professional and the person. I have a feeling those two will be getting along just fine.