A few weeks back on the school forum a lot of us were talking about the famous and infamous people we shared names with. Generally, the less common your surname, the greater a chance you have of being unique. Then again, there can be enough people with the same name that you could be classified by the distinction of your occupation. Say, Jesse James the outlaw verses Jesse James the, uh, husband of Sandra Bullock. And I once knew a guy named Dred Scott who was a white jazz musician. Or there’s that guy Michael Bolten in that movie where…
I few years ago I discovered, with a minor amount of horror, that my efforts on an indie film I participated in when I was in college generated an entry in the Internet Movie Data Base. The problem was compounded when a number of credits started popping up under my name for movies I had absolutely nothing to do with. Turned out there was a person whose last name was very similar to mine and people had posted our credits interchangeably. I even had an “aka” that linked to this other person. Eventually that got cleared up and now my one lone credit hangs out on IMDB as some weird appendage to my life history.
Oh no, wait. It says alternate name: Dave.
It’s odd, but I can pretty much sort people into two categories, the Dave and the David camps. Skipping those people who knew me as Dave in junior high for a moment, those people who have met me since high school, those people I have introduced myself to, have always met David. The nickname Dave never felt right to me and once I took ownership of my name I felt pretty strongly about it. The problem is that people view them interchangeably.
If I introduce myself to someon as David and within moments they immediately go with the familiar, Dave, then I pretty much know how the rest of our relationships are going to go. If someone introduces themselves as Margaret you don’t turn around and start calling them Maggie, or Marge, do you? That would be presumptuous and rude, would it not? Yet people don’t seem to have the same hesitation about calling me Dave as though they had known me since junior high.
It’s a small thing, and I’ve gone beyond correcting people because I have learned that the vast majority of those I’ve corrected don’t see the problem. It’s a paper cut of an insult, a gnat-sized bit of disrespect, but it tells me so much more about that person than they’ll ever realize, and I carry that information with me forever.
Now, that just sounds petty. It isn’t. Not much. I don’t hold grudges. I just have come to learn who I can trust at first meeting and who has to earn that trust the hard way. Down the road some offenders have managed to discern my preference and correct themselves, but by then we’re on good enough terms that it almost doesn’t matter. Almost.
But what’s realy eating at me isn’t the first name any more, it’s the whole name. Google has created this odd environment where, periodically, anyone can basically Google themselves and find out what they — or others with their name — are doing in the world. And suddenly having a preference on my first name doesn’t seem like such a big thing. My namesake is a Certified Massage Therapist in Colorado. There’s another me in Tennessee petitioning for habeas corpus relief. A me that’s a police officer in Alaska, a me that’s a former Public Utilities Commissioner, and a me who is associated with M.A.D.D.
While it’s impossible for everyone to have a unique name in this world I’m lookin down the road and wondering how much I really want to go with my given name as my professional name.
I realize this is ridiculous. If I were to turn out to be an award-worthy writer and my name were Barak Obama no one would confuse us. And since there isn’t someone with my name working in publishing, much less in the field of children’s books, it isn’t like there’s going to be much confusion.
But I’m still thining of changing my professional name. I figure I have to do it now before I publish, otherwise I look like I’m trying to hide something. But I’m not. I just want something unique that pops out, something that (along with my stories and their titles) stands out among the fray. Lewis Carroll and Mark Twain had their reasons and didn’t seem to suffer for it. Is it so wrong to want to literally make a name for myself?
I’ve tried anagrams and amalgams of odd influences in the past. I’ve written letters to the editor under the name Roscoe Nickel (because I wanted to give more than my two cents worth), I’ve gone lower case, and with just initials. Today I thought of one that’s a pip. It’s lively, it’s unique, and best of all shows no hits on Google.
I’m sure Suze is going to hate it. maybe some of you might as well. What say you? Is it all folly? Should I just worry about the writing and stet the name?
Can you tell the semester is over, and that I’m avoiding catching up on my reading?