How to Write Your Ass Off

How to Write Your Ass Off

Reader Comments (184)

  1. Rock on with that. (And what that is, by the way, is this).

    I can relate – highly and personally. James isn’t the name on my birth certificate. And James is me, full on – but he’s not always who I am. He’s a role I play, a personality that’s mine and within me – always was – but I have other roles, too.

    And that does make some concious split personalities rattling around in your head. You choose when to slip in the role and when you don’t, and you accomlish many things by doing so.

    In fact, in a recent conversation that was getting a little complex, a client exclaimed in frustration. “Look, I want a meeting with JAMES. I understand best when you’re that person. Can you step into that role for a minute?”

    I paused, thought, “Of course I can,” and then proceeded to rock his socks off as I switched my mindset smoothly and gave him 30 minutes of totally business focused rockstar consultation.

    It’s like that. You are who you are, 100%, no matter which role you choose to be at that moment. And yes, it’s like having two people inside your head.

    The funny thing is – we ALL have these people in our heads. And WAY more than just two of them. Think of all the roles you play in a day – mother, employee, friend, lover, etc etc etc… you’ll be amazed at how many faces you wear.

  2. Wow. Awesome piece, Johnny. I’ve been interested for a good long while about how we’re slightly (or in some cases very) different people online and offline, and which is more “real”.

    I’m a lot more confident online. I write easily and confidently; I’m less sure of myself when you meet me in person. I think the “real Ali” is the one you get online. The Ali you see in person is the Ali who’s scared to let you get beneath the surface.

    When I was fifteen, I was “Ali” to the online world. When I was eighteen, I introduced myself to everyone at college as “Ali”. It stuck.

    (My real name’s “Alison”. It’s no big secret, I just don’t like the name. It’s not who I am any more.)

    One of the best things about being a writer — especially of any creative stripe — is that you get to tell your own story. I think that there’s a lot of power in what we can imagine and what we can dream for ourselves; there’s no need to say “I’m not the kind of person who can…” because, hey, just make it up. Pretend to be someone braver or calmer or smarter, and you can be.

    I’ve rambled. What I basically mean to say is, thanks for being brave enough to post this, and eloquent enough to put it all into words; it really struck a chord with me today.

  3. Very nice Johnny.

    I agree.

    We all have different people inside of us, but they are still all part of the same person – some parts are just kick butt more than others.

    I write as me, but I am two or more minds about everything. 🙂

  4. Woww. Rocking Post Johny. !

    Well Said..I’m Johnny B. Truant. He’s who you see here — who you’re reading right now. He’s who I always was, deep down — even before that part of me had ever seen the light of day.
    Thanks for sharing this great post.

  5. I’ve a sneaking suspicion that I read your post “James” about that a while ago. Where you somewhat unmasked yourself. That was a good post. I could have the wrong person though. lol.

    I’ve been out of the loop with Copyblogger recently, and this post popped into my inbox at exactly the right moment. I self-edit, self-doubt and procrastinate constantly. I think that my grammar isn’t good enough, my wiring not succinct enough, that people don’t want to hear what I’ve got to say. well, F**k it, I’m going to write what I’m passionate about, and that’s snowboarding. I love it and I’m pretty good at it.

    I can hit a 60ft jump on a snowboard, so I’m sure I can overcome my writing gremlins and rock this thing! Thanks “Johnny”, or whatever your name is, doesn’t matter to me.

  6. GREAT post! I won’t tell you my pseudonym to protect my guy inside but you’ve revealed a super secret. The author Dr. Rodney William Whitaker, pen name “Trevanian,” did the same.

  7. Without a doubt having a persona is a great way to “step outside” yourself and do things that you otherwise might not. I’m still very much in the fledgling stages of doing much the same, and trying to find my feet.

    Having that persona have a degree of panache, as Johnny B. Truant undoubtedly has, is taking it to the next level. With panache, a persona becomes much more real to the readers, which helps to inflate the persona and it become a beautiful self-reinforcing system.

    Combine persona and panache with persistence and you have the Perfect Storm. You keep writing in the form that readers love and your name spreads. Before you know it, you have a brand. And once you have a brand, you can really start to reap the rewards.

    Of course, its also enjoyable, and looking at it all too analytically can kill the magic. Viva JohnnyB, PeteT, BobW, SueK, or whoever you are!

  8. I think that using inapproriate langange in a title like the one you sent today is awful. I did not read the message!

  9. Great, timely post! As somebody who’s quiet and unassuming in person but ‘take no prisoners’ on paper, this one really spoke to me .

  10. Thank you so much. Yes – I am stuck. I’m sitting here trying to get the book that’s in my heart out of my head and this post of your was incredibly timely. I’m a speaker and in front of people a great deal and when I speak, what you see if pretty much what you get. I am who I am on the platform and off. For some reason when I sit down to write, I lose my voice. As you said, I worry about how I’m supposed to write and what I’m supposed to write and who will read what I write and the crap goes on and on and on and I end up not writing at all. Thank you so much for this post. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

  11. Hey Johnny,

    Some big cojones for writing this! Awesome! First time I ever read something like this.

    Have an awesome weekend…

  12. A thought for “C”: I believe the key to marketing is knowing your target audience, making them love what you do, and not caring what anyone else thinks. Anyone who would take offense at the language used in the title of Johnny’s post is clearly not a member of his target audience. I don’t mean to be critical of your for taking offense, but from a business standpoint, all that matters is what the people Johnny’s trying to reach think. And I’m guessing that 99% of them loved it.

  13. Great; just great.

    Now, I have to go back and start all over again as Jake Calcutta.

    I wonder how I introduce him to my existing readers . . . the audio interview is gonna be a hoot, though.

  14. I needed to hear this. I have been ignoring a persona for about a month now. Her blog languishes because I was conflicted about how I would someday explain the need for a pseudonym to fully express myself.

    Thanks for affirming me to myself. Now I’m going to rock that blog.

  15. Brilliant, sparkling words. I love that you so eloquently differentiate between being a completely different person and simply being brazenly yourself. Being your id, as you say. This is a brave and inspiring piece.

  16. wow.. one powerful thought after another Johnny.. we need people to say it as they see it and not hide.. online has given the average person that long a we are civil to each other we can all think differently and inspire each other… you certainly inspired me with that post….

  17. If I had it to do over, I’d do this. I’d keep Sonia for a personal facebook account to spend time with family and old friends.

    I’d be able to focus more clearly on my business communication if it didn’t get mixed up with my personal communication. If I knew my ex husband and my mom wouldn’t read what I wrote, there are things I’d do differently.

    But it didn’t occur to me, so here I am. 🙂

    I think this is a great recommendation for anyone who’s struggling with that fear of being visible. We don’t have to be super secretive about it, but just having that layer there can be very freeing. Thanks for writing something I can point ’em to. 🙂

  18. Wow – thanks! I find myself censoring what I write. No more – I’m going to let that other inner gal out today!

  19. Awesome is the word! Hummed along to the post, and then even knew the words when I got to James’ comment. 😉

    As a mama, student, writer, volunteer etc etc, I’m so used to putting on different faces and voices for my different roles, but I hadn’t identified as clearly as you have, Johnny, how this is going to be my saving grace when it comes to unleashing my awesomeness online.

    The blog I’m working on features a somewhat larger-than-life version of me, as well as allowing plenty of scope for that ‘me’ to grow into the role I’m assuming.

    I love that edgy exciting feeling when I’m writing a post and feel a bit scared to hit the Post button – understanding this persona business a little more is going to help me rock that feeling every time. Cheers! 🙂

  20. Different strokes for different folks.
    While I loved reading your story, Johnny . . . and I do see that some people might need a way to go from “the inside out,” my suggestion begins with what John Pohl started with in his comment above, i.e. “Know your target audience.”

    In my writing classes, I have many many students who simply cannot make the pen move once it hits the paper. What has worked for many of them is to imagine the person they are writing to: Say, they want to write a piece about exercise; then I have them imagine their hefty uncle sitting on the couch flipping the remote and chugging his beer
    OR, for many of them, that grandmother you mention above whom they love and want to tell a story to.

    But as I began with. Different strokes for different folks.

  21. Great post. I have contemplated this before, so nice to see I am not crazy (or, I am crazy, but with company). This is so counter-intuitive when you are a writer striving to be real. Passion and authenticity are the lifeblood of writing, but the inner critic shuts down our most amazing work before it hits the page. Assume another identity in order to be completely transparent? Huh…so crazy, it just might work.

  22. God damn JBT this is fraking awesome. By deciding JBT you were able to speak & be your truth.

    I learned how to write my truth by not writing. I made videos for 6 months and didn’t write anything (except for like 10K tweets. but that’s a different story) until I was *bursting* with truth in Nov 2009 … and if you could see my google analytics from that day on, you could see how it changed everything.

    Really, ElizabethPW & EPW is someone a bit more brave than Elizabeth, a bit more kickass, a bit less introverted (or, a lot less introverted).

    Another thing that works for me – I forget that anyone reads my tweets. Or my blog. And then I get surprised when people do. #waysiaminsane

  23. Shari makes an excellent point, and it’s really important when writing copy. But I think it’s also important when selecting an overall voice for general content.

    The trick to “authenticity” is that the audience determines what they find authentic, not you. You can be as “you” as you wanna be, but if no one is interested in the story you’re telling, there’s not much “you” can do about it.

    The best writers find a voice that fits them well (in that it isn’t a voice you’re supposed to use, it’s one you want to use) and connects with the intended audience. And if that doesn’t work, work with the audience that shows up.

  24. @Shari, that’s a great point, and I feel like there’s always that tension. We often write to establish connection, which means there needs to be someone on our own side of the line. If we don’t have something unique to communicate, why open our mouth/laptop at all? But it’s for the benefit of that other, that audience, and their needs drive the whole process. The two are, if you’ll forgive a cliché, two sides of the same coin.

    “Be yourself” and “forget yourself” seem like they contradict, and yet I find that I need to keep both in mind when I write.

  25. What Sonia said. If I could start over, I’d keep Chris for myself and my family.

    I think I’ve been trying to do this for years, actually. I keep coming up with pen names and then reasons not to use them that generally boil down to “but it’s not ME”.

    I’m also tempted to combine this with Havi’s concept of internal monsters and see what happens.

  26. @#12 – “I think that using inapproriate [sic] langange [sic] in a title like the one you sent today is awful. I did not read the message!”

    The word “ass” is used in the Bible. It is, quite literally, a biblical term. Maybe you should create another persona that doesn’t mind a little profanity every now and then. Life is too short to get wound up over such a bland word, anyway!

    Great post, Johnny.

  27. Brian & Simone, this is one of the Awesome things about the Net: you read something that strikes a chord enough to make you want to comment AND THEN within minutes, people have read what you have to say.

    Thanks for making my day.

  28. Great work here, Johnny! BTW, the title of this piece is what grabbed my attention and kept me reading through the entire piece. I’m gonna let my hair down and let her rip!!

  29. @Shari And thanks in turn for showing up with a great point. 🙂

    @Daniel, As you probably know, 99 times out of 100 we keep things rated G, but sometimes it’s important to use language that’s a little more forceful. Not to offend anyone for offense’s sake, but because we’re all grown-ups and some topics call for stronger language. We will not, however, be turning into Naomi Dunford any time soon. (Naomi’s got that covered pretty well already.)

  30. I first heard you talk about this on your QTR course. In a sense, it inspired me. Because of life circumstance, some illness, and various and sundry other weirdnesses, I feel hampered on the blogs I write currently. So, due to your un-coming-out, you became a real person in my book. Now have to find a marketable name so the real me can come out. Now, that is weird.

  31. WOW F**king A WOW!

    Reminds me of a mentor of mine Mr. Joe Schroeder. When ever someone asks him how he’s doing he responds: “I’m Joe Schroeder, how the hell to do you think I’m doing?”

    Still processing this one – thanks!

  32. I have never felt more ME before actually writing my truth. People have asked me why I’m telling everyone how I feel, and I say, “Frankly, I’m sick of the bullshit and having to hide”

    Thanks Johnny, for reaffirming and giving me permission. I’d been doubting myself this past week, and this was the perfect kick in the ass! Awesome!

  33. Dear Johnny, right now I’d like to give you a virtual hug for revealing your deep dark secrets on this blog.

    When I discovered you as a guest blogger on Copyblogger, I dismissed “that wise-ass with a big mouth,” as not worth reading. But I kept coming back to you because the stuff you wrote was good–more like an experienced writer than a brash kid. And some of your brashness faded, whether actually or just in my eyes, I’m not sure. I realized Johnny B. Truant had more on the ball than #%@ remarks. Thank goodness.

    I’m delighted you shared your dual personality. Who of us wannabe writers with fears and concerns like yours couldn’t benefit from what you’ve said here?
    Thank you, Johnny B.

  34. This is something I was juggling in my mind – do I go with a pen name.

    And ironically the reason I opted not to is pretty dumb now. I thought ‘I’m not that great to have a Pen name’. What the hell? Currently that logic makes no sense to me.

    In any case – hmmmmmmmmmmm. Thanks Johnny for this post, i like it.

  35. If I truly did wake up to find I was unable to discern dream from reality, I have to believe I wouldn’t really care what people thought of me…

    Going back to your ideas on faith, it seems if buying the gun is a faithless action, so is changing my name to use my voice. Of course, it may be my stubborn interpretation that keeps me from publishing anything personal more than once every few weeks… you know, because maybe my 15 readers won’t like it and will call me a dipshizz by name…

    As always, I admire your bravery, Johnny. Thanks for puttin’ this out there for us…

  36. This reminded me a bit of what Steven pressfield calls “Me inc” in The War of Art. About separating your personal self from your professional (or whatever else) self, so that you can do the things you need to do as a professional, without worrying about the inner critic of your personal self.

    A great reminder here Johnny. Well written, strong message. I’ll be sure to share this around. Thanks.

    David, Scribnia

  37. Whether’s it’s Brian quitting law, Sonia dying her hair pink, or you using a pen name, all are expressions of a commitment to persue something purer in life. And if these expressions can help others do the same along the the way, that’s even sweeter.

  38. I used my rapper stage name, “Mr. Madison” when I started my first blog.

    I switched to use my real name, and that’s when I found my voice. That’s when I became bold. That’s when I connected with my audience in a deep way.

    It also helped me to stand out because most other people in my blog circle used fake names. And it didn’t hurt when I applied for gigs in my industry that my managers were readers of my stuff and recognized my name.

    I don’t disagree with Johnny’s post, but I advise everyone to look at his results and just do it your own way.

  39. Awesome. And true.

    We all have lots of different characters (aka subpersonalities) inside us, itching to come out and play. It’s so easy to get locked into one or two roles, particularly once we start working for a living and have to look ‘professional’ during office hours. But there’s much more to each of us, if we dare to let it them out.

    Hats off to Johnny for walking the thoughts. 🙂

    And in the words of Mr Bowie, “Who can I be now?”

  40. Absolutely spot-on! I’ll be teaching this “trick” to my Christian writing class on Saturday. They all seem so stuck on being “politically correct” that they cripple themselves.

  41. And in the words of Mr Bowie, “Who can I be now?”

    And in the words of Men at Work, “Who can it be now?”

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  42. You’re rad.

    What are we but the boring versions of our true selves? In the words of no-name narrator:

    “I am Jack’s wasted life.”

  43. very intuitive and immensely brave for you to reveal to others the concept that is one of many underlying features of the subsconscious…you make Freud proud!

  44. Johnny (can I call you that? ), as I read this I could hear you saying the words.

    Oh wait, that’s because I have actually talked to you for real (and it was pretty awesome) … but my point: it’s much easier to write in an authentic voice when you just start typing what you want to SAY first. And Shari’s tip about imagining you’re talking to a specific person illuminates this beautifully.

    Pretty much the most important and EXCITING thing we ever learn to do as a small child is to talk. Every first word really is “amazing.” Then somewhere along the line our language–our “something to say”–gets bastardized either by learning “how to write” or learning how to BEHAVE.

    Most people want desperately to find their voice and say what’s literally burning inside them. (@ “C” – go ahead and say “ass” out loud. I bet you’ll feel a huge weight off your shoulders.)

    Adopting a pen name is one way to do this (that’s what they used to call that … you know, when we used pens ‘n stuff).

    But here’s another Jedi mind trick you can use when you’re trying to write what’s on the inside: get emotional or even a little messed up about something. Anger, sadness, fear, nervousness, anticipation, excitement. Whatever feeling is either lying beneath the surface or causing you to feel uncomfortable.

    Write THAT.


  45. I feel SO identified! I usually write under my own name and when I write about what I really care about and let the witty me show up, I get surprising comments about how funny I am. I love when that happens, but for some reason I can’t always get there…

  46. Probably because of the recent tax season, I misread this post’s title as “How To Write Off Your Ass”.

    Let me know when you break that particular bookkeeping barrier. In the meantime, I appreciate the decent advice on abandoning decorum. Decorum doesn’t pay.

  47. Thank you! I enjoyed reading this posting for a millions reasons. But the most thoughtful tidbit shared was this quote…”The false name allowed me to stop writing false copy. And the minute I ceased using my real name, I started writing what was true and genuine.”

    I can relate.

  48. Great post, Johnny. Like Sonia I wish I could do it all over again and do what I do under another name. Now it feels too late–got a blog, business and clients in my own name. It would be odd, would it not, to change now?? :-).

    That said, none of them know where I live so I can be more kick ass and still be safe in my home….

  49. You are awesome. And totally inspiring. I created Slackermom for that reason although it didn’t take me long to start using my real name for comments and stuff. It’s just easier to be somewhat anonymous. Most of my “off line” friends don’t even know I have a blog. In some ways, the peeps that read my blog know me better than people I’ve met in real life. Which, surprisingly, doesn’t bother me at all.

  50. Been struggling with the “should I or shouldn’t I” problem recently myself.

    Feeling like I should use a persona stems from the paralyzing fear of removing myself from my former career field completely. I still can’t make the mental leap to believing there’s another way to survive financially, that isn’t job-dependent.

    I really just want to be myself, with all the non-corporate-friendly stuff that includes. 🙂

    The longer, “blahblahblah it’s all about me” version is here:

  51. Johnny B. F***ing Truant – this is a fantastic window into the soul of a cathartic process!

    To be honest – there’s a fair amount of jealousy after reading this post. You’ve explained a process I’ve struggled to describe in written form to my clients for years. Kudos and thanks!

    This has extreme parallel to the sports world… the world I live in. Sometimes when working with athletes that are ‘tapping their talent’ – you find they’re doing it for fear of judgement.

    Worried about what teammates are thinking… coaches are judging… and parents are approving of.

    So… we go through a process of building “the warrior within” – an alter ego that gets to compete at a F*** You level. “I’m not here to be liked – I’m here to be feared.”

    It’s phenomenal the transformation that occurs (especially in younger players).

    Just like Stern is very different off-mic. Athletes are very different out of the arena. There is one very famous athlete I work with in the NFL that has a public perception extraordinarily different than the ‘real him’.

    Great stuff JBT!

  52. Yes! A gutsy and ballsy approach in hammering through the obstacles and speed bumps. Just like politicians can use a spinal implant, many of us can use a testicular implant in this manner. Oh yeah!!!

  53. This is the exact reason I jumped ahead with my still-not-yet-official married name. Because I was going to be Paige Jeffrey down the road – so why not bring that future here now and start building it already?

    It’s all about personal perception and if you can shake the everyday patterns that your brain is familiar with, you can knock loose some new thoughts, ideas, and inspirations that you never knew you had.

    Awesome post. Thanks.

  54. Wow, this was awesome. It’s going to be awesome food for thought over the weekend.

    I’ve known for years that I’m more talkative, brave and well-spoken on the internet than I am in “real life” (where I’m quite shy), but I never really thought about how to use that.

    Thanks, Johnny. You gave me something awesome to think about. Congratulations on finding a pseudonym that fits you so well!

  55. This is absolutely fantastic!

    Like James said in the first comment, we ALL have our own Johnny in our head. I think a lot of us bury him in favor of presenting a more socially acceptable version of who we think others think we should be.

    It really comes down to being yourself. Truly being yourself and having the courage to do so. Once we do that, the things we express automatically come out as genuine, authentic, and unique. We automatically attract people because what we’re saying is REAL.

  56. When I started writing online, I knew I couldn’t use my real name because of some rules my employer had about online identities – not that they wouldn’t let you blog or be online, but that you had to be careful about what you said as you were always “representing” the company.

    I didn’t want to be careful about what I said – I wanted to be me.

    That meant I had to become someone else in order to be me and this post is the only one I’ve ever read about the subject that describes how I’ve justified this for myself. I never did it to deceive – I did it to be free.

    Erica IS who I am – it’s just not the name on my driver’s license. My parents have grown so accustomed to the online identity they even send emails addressed to Erica. In fact, my father said I’ll have to explain to the old folks home some day why he keeps insisting he has three daughters instead of two.

    Best post I’ve read anywhere in MONTHS and not just because I feel it validates my approach. Just amazingly well written and inspiring.

    Thank you!

    Signed – Free to be Erica

  57. Johnny,

    THANK YOU! This exactly what I needed to read, just when I needed to read it. It reminds me of what you and Lee Stranahan discuss in Question the Rules (QTR) about faith and the universe rising to meet you. I have held myself back from writing and moving forward with some things for the very reasons you describe here.

    In the past two days, I have read this, heard a quote from Lee in QTR, and read the following post by Jonathan Fields:

    All telling me the same thing – move forward with what I want to do and not to worry so much.

  58. Great post — it really hits home with me.

    I’m a financial advisor and deal with people’s money. When I write on my blog, I can be a bit edgy or irreverent at times, but I still feel like I’m holding back and not being my true self.

    And while I want to unleash the real me (good, bad & ugly) upon the world sometimes, I feel as if it would be detrimental to my business. Maybe I’m wrong about this.

    Sure, I could rationalize that there are plenty of people out there that would appreciate the real, genuine me — their financial guy dropping an occasional f-bomb or calling things like I really see them all the time, but so far, I haven’t gotten over that hurdle. I feel as if there is an “expectation” of how to look and act and talk, especially when serving as a trusted advisor to a family and helping them with their financial resources.

    I know this is, after all, a very personal issue, but I would welcome the feedback or thoughts from anyone else that is possibly wrestling with this same issue.

    Again, a great post that hit me squarely between the eyes. Thank you for that

  59. I think this is a great idea, but I have one question:
    How do you do it?

    I mean, technologically. How do you set up a blog without giving your real name when you purchase the domain?

  60. Damn, when I read the headline I thought someone had figured out a way to get your ass off while writing, instead of it spreading while sitting.

  61. You are really a fantastic write and I’m glad the new identity unleashed all of you! I wrote under a different identity for awhile and I really enjoyed being that person. It’s fun and freeing.

  62. I don’t have a pseudonym, but I do identify with the need to write from who you really are and what you really think in order to produce good blog posts. Some of my most successful posts come from the most emotionally charged parts of my life, the stuff I was scared as h*** to share, but once I did they are the posts that connect the most with people. Thank you for giving that feeling a voice in this post.

  63. How do you set up a blog without giving your real name when you purchase the domain?

    Domain registrars offer privacy protection when you register the domain for a small extra fee. They keep your real information on record and hide it from the public unless served with a court order.

  64. @Marte Cliff From my limited knowledge of these things, you purchase the domain under your real name, only using your pseudonym in the public places of your blog (About me, posts, possibly title etc.) Hope that helps.

  65. Bravo , Johnny! I have been wrestling with this myself and have not gotten to the point of freedom yet. This post bumps me up a notch or two.

    Thanks for sharing your hard-won knowledge and for kicking @$$ on a regular basis for all to read!

  66. I really like coming to this blog and reading such wonderful material. I used to spend my lunches trying to cram in work that wasn’t very productive but reading blogs like this one has been inspirational. There’s always the “society” person like you mentioned and then there’s the real me. Ironically most of of society likes the realness of other people, so why aren’t most of us doing it more? I admit even some of the blogs I write…can be laboured at times, but then I sit quietly and ask…what really matters and what do I want people to know. And that’s when it’s so much easier to write. Thanks for the great article Truant. It made me smile.

  67. Thank you. Brilliant post. I never even comment let alone write! I can be honest without using my own name..duh
    I think I’ll start a new life under an pseudonym

  68. So, I am not the only one with a cool pen-name-con-split-personality? Yay! 🙂

    I dared be different and spoke a truth that makes most feel uneasy and, utterly, shocked. I spoke of my experience with child sexual abuse, but from an angle that left many agape and has won me more faithful readers:

    Mind you, I can’t voice offline many of the things I say on my blog. So, a Johnny does help. 😉 Cool post, Truant!

  69. I am proudly standing up and applauding this post. I already follow your blog because you are pretty blunt and to the point. Let’s face it, if I do not like it, I do not have to read it. You know, I can just hit the backspace, delete, or next button.
    I admit however that I totally agree with the why you blog under Johnny. Many of us moon light after hours and it is a challenge when you work 8-5. You simply cannot say the things that, at times, you would like to because, hey, your boss is one of your Face Book friends.
    I found it blissful that you mention one of my other favorite bloggers Naomi Dunford. She is pretty kick butt in my opinion. Or simply said, I love her blunt and to the point style.
    Thanks for the guest post here. Copy Blogger is truly the most refreshing, get your mind to thinking blog for putting things into another prospective.

  70. This is absolutely awesome. Really. I feel the same way! Always wondering who’s over my shoulders, reading the things that I write. Is it my in-laws? Of course that influences me negatively, because it’s more difficult to write a piece that you think your in-laws are going to dissect.

    Regardless, thank you. Thank you for this post. <3

  71. yes, i have found over the years that i’d better write my ass off, so as to avoid having others write my ass off.

    many thanks and have a great weekend, jbt….

  72. Awesome, Johnny. My respect for you grows by the day, seriously.

    I’m figuring out lately that my inner Naomi voice is direct, which is quite unlike how I appear IRL. Lots of good things to think about in here.

    Thanks, Johnny!

  73. That goldenhills thing is my cleaned-up professional website. My real stuff, my Johnny stuff, is at

    I read something the other day I’ll drop here in this box:

    “Pretty soon you’re going to die. Nobody, absolutely nobody, is going to remember you. So why not tell the fucking truth when you write.

  74. @Krista, I know Johnny will have his own answer, but it occurs to me that many of the celebrities who appear on the Today show would use their professional/stage names, so I would imagine Johnny would as well.

  75. Thanks for laying it all out there, Johnny. Big cojones indeed!!!!

    Your post strikes a deep chord in me (and lots of folks here), and I want to see if we can take it even further.

    You’re writing about liberating your own creative freedom, a voice that actually has the power to stir people’s souls, and even shape the broader culture. That’s amazing, gutsy, and rare.

    And I find myself drawn towards what’s possible as that starts happening with more and more people. Your point that there’s always a part of you that’s ready for action, that tells it like it is, and has no fear is one that many spiritual and esoteric teachings reveal as well. I think that’s why so many people “get it” here. We recognize its truth.

    But imagine if everyone reading this were able to come together and just be their *real* selves… not their *nice* self, but actually be together in their own deepest convictions about life and who they are?

    I think that would be pretty damn cool. And I do think that of all the places I frequent online, Copyblogger is pretty well ahead on that front.

  76. Ya, ya, but I bet it’s hell to cash a check made out to Johnny B. Truant. Sure, what you say is okay as a writing device to break though your own neurotic structure, but otherwise not useful information. The job’s not done until you cash the check.

  77. Many people wondered about that when James revealed that she wrote under a pseudonym. It’s just not that hard to work out. You have a business name. You have a business account. Payments are made to that business name. It’s really extremely easy. Millions of people do business under names other than their own.

    You think John Wayne couldn’t get paid because his real name was Marion Morrison?

  78. Dude — uh, yup ~ !

    (And great fun to see you giving the “click” moment to so many kids out there with a post like this… you will sleep well tonight, kiddo. As earned.)
    Rock on ~ !


  79. I always thought that it would help me get past my creative block if I used a pen name. But then I thought that there must be something wrong with me if I had to do that just to write. I’m glad to know, that there is nothing weird about it. And that, in fact, I was right on track. I find that I hinder myself from writing what I really want because I do worry about what everyone is going to think. But if they read it under a different name, I guess I don’t take it too seriously. In any case, I’m glad I’m not the only one thinking of doing the same thing.

  80. Mmm! Will the real Johnny B Truant stand up please.

    I’d say the real you isn’t the one with the social mask but your writing ‘you’! And I’d encourage you to live your purpose, passion and power in everyday life and not confine it to the written page/blog/website… whatever.

    You were made for living out loud. So go do it in ALL of your life!

  81. Hey, Johnny! My name is Lee Gillette. No, that’s not the name on the birth certificate, either. I have talked and screamed and yelled and played rock n roll music on the Radio for some 45 years under that name. In fact, every so-called “disc-jockey” or “talk-show host” in the world will tell you … you are “right on!” (outdated expression, notwithstanding)

    The very reason we had different names other than our real names in the radio business was because nobody wants to listen to Irving R Swartz. They will, however, listen to Johnny Truant, or Charlie Brown (at one time, there were approximately 15 Charlie Browns in as many different markets across the country).

    These names were thus created out of a marketing necessity; however, they also became our alter egos … the guys and girls with the balls. The ones who say the outrageous things we’d never say to our mothers, because we’re all total introverts.

    Not many people get into Radio with great “air names.” So we have to create them, and as you so rightly suggested, we not only create different names, we create different people.

    Long story short: I think your post is a classic. In fact, I’m going to print it and frame it and put it on the wall of my home office to remind me of why I’m in this business to begin with, and why I’m dedicated to learning the art of conversation. For that, I depend on Brian and you and Sonia and all the other Copybloggers to keep my head straight. Hopefully, I’m going to take what I learn and put it to good use under the name, Lee Gillette. Not as Leonard Earl Gillett, III!

    Thanks for the encouraging words.

    Lee Gillette

  82. @ Sonia, @James
    Creating a business for banking purposes means another layer of paper work. You can’t use PayPal under a business/pen name unless you have all the paper work, bank accounts and a credit card already in place with that name.

    I’m with @Sharon on this. Rather than building some artificial persona, it is better to be who you are. If there is already some creative, liberated person on the inside, then its to your advantage to be that person all the time.

    Feeding a dissociative identity disorder is not the only way to reach creative fullness. Avoiding that path also cuts down on the banking problems.

  83. F*** yeah! I struggle with this a lot, probably because I read so many blogs before I got started. You start to think that you *have* to write a certain way. In real life, I’m a crazy dude. Seriously, I will robot walk my way across the office without even thinking about it.

    In slow motion.

    But my writing persona hasn’t gotten that comfortable yet and needs to bust out.

    Thanks for this post!

  84. @Johnny A, If that’s working for you, fine. But if you actually want to run a business, the small hurdle of setting up a simple business identity shouldn’t be enough to stop you. You definitely do not need to have a credit card in your business name. A simple LLC or “Doing Business As” (depending on where you live) is easy enough to set up, and even if you’re using your real name, it’s something you should do for taxes.

    Forgive me, but, when you don’t leave a web site name, your comment tends to look like you’re making comments from the peanut gallery without an actual experience of making a business work. Johnny and James, by contrast, both have successful businesses and tell us that it’s not a big deal. I don’t use a pseudonym, but I do use a business name, and I also found those hurdles quite tiny.

    “It’s better to be who you are” is a valid counter argument. “It’s too hard to receive payments under another name” just sounds like an excuse to me.

  85. @Sonia
    Forgive you? 8) I can forgive everything except ad hominem attacks. Let’s stick to the issues. I don’t need a web site to define who I am as a person or to validate my skills. I was making a good living as a professional writer long before web pages existed.

    No need to debate the credit card requirement at PayPal. Just check their policies for businesses. They want one connected to accounts. Their requirements may be “tiny,” but it’s just more unnecessary paper work. I’d rather write instead of doing paperwork. Anyway, the whole process is an exercise in futility if its purpose is to enable wannabe writers to play Walter Mitty head games.

    The real issue here is whether you need to create different personae (James/Johnny B/”Government Name”) to gain creative freedom. I say no. Don’t hide. Be who you are.

  86. Don’t hide. Be who you are.

    Exactly. And since we don’t know who you are because you refuse to show us anything about you via a link to your work, I’d say you’re hiding, and a troll, and it’s time to say bye bye.

  87. I use a pseudonym for safety and security reasons, because of the nature of my subject matter.

    ‘Jesse’ has given me a voice, a spine, and a path for learning and connecting with others. Sure, I could connect using my real name, but as ‘Jesse’ I’m not guarded. I’m not worried that what I write won’t please all those who know me.

    Maybe one day she’ll even earn me a living.

  88. @ Johhny B. F***ing Truant!:

    I gotta say that what you say here is true for me as well. Four years ago I joined secondlife and created a name for my avatar and then spent addictive hours trying to climb out of depression, or anything else that follows those impactful events in your life that leads to it. I began to realize that I could express myself in ways that I couldn’t ever do before. Since then, I’ve turned my life around. Well, let’s just say I’m on that path leading to the turn-around.

    Reading an encouraging post from this blog, and some others, I finally got the “cojones” to create my own blog where I could express what’s inside me. Writing that’s not veiled in Vanilla. Writing that I could only do when I’d created my alter-ego, who is posting this comment to your blog 😉 .

    Great post. Great writing. Thanks Johnny!

    ~ Z

  89. Wish that I had thought of having a persona……then I wouldn’t have had to cancel my mothers subscription to my blog via feedburner………….

  90. I don’t have a stage name for my writing. I have just convinced myself that no one is reading my blog, so I can write the way I speak. My ‘writing voice’ comes from years of tech writing in corporation-stan, so everytime I tried to write a blog post it came out sounding like, well, marketing fluff from a corporation. I finally decided to write conversationally and that has helped with output. It probably sucks as content, but no one is reading it anyway. I find that obscurity strangely liberating.

  91. Everyone: Thanks a ton for all the great comments, tweets, emails, DMs, and so on that I got yesterday (and into today). I thought people might find this post interesting, but I didn’t anticipate that people would find it liberating or validating. Not as much as people did, anyway.

    Also, I was really nervous sending in this post, and thought, “Oh, shit” when it ran. Thanks for making me appear brave instead of just foolish.

    @James – I was totally thinking about you when I wrote this post.

    @SmilesDoc – How does it feel? It felt frightening. I was nervous to submit it, and nervous when it ran… but tried to be brave.

    @Dorothy – That seems to be a common opinion. I guess a lot of people thinks that I’m an ass at first, but then I just don’t go away and kind of wear them down.

    @Rob Warmowski – I laughed out loud for several minutes at your comment. I probably could write off my ass, though. It’s definitely a business asset.

    @Erica Stone – Apparently Penelope Trunk (that’s not her real name either) says at her husband sometimes calls her Penelope. I guess who you are often enough is kind of who you become.

    @Russ – All ll I have to say is that the world and the internet are very big places. If the Net can support a niche for Japanese tentacle porn, I think a financial advisor who occasionally swears would be okay.

    @Krista – I’d go with Johnny. The world doesn’t know the other guy anyway.

    @Johnny A – I haven’t had even a tiny problem getting paid as Johnny. I don’t know what to tell you if you insist that issue makes this not do-able.

    @James – Yeah, that was my experience exactly. It was really easy and I didn’t have to do anything illegal, fraudulent or otherwise sketchy. I can’t believe anyone would think it’s an obstacle.

  92. @Sam
    You ARE in the twilight zone! And a good zone at that.

    It’s funny that standard fiction writing is almost the
    DEFINITION of ‘psudonym’ writing, no?

    It’s just that, you don’t have *half the planet* looking
    in. I do believe, though, that there’s a great value to be
    had to tell a truth *as near the bone as it needs to be*
    without ‘ripping someone’s head off’, going on the mega
    -rant, etc… just to be ‘brutally honest’…. 2 more cents….

    Johnny U Fabulous, indeed

    Brian, Sonia, et al, love you all Dale

  93. Worth the read just for the technique of using a pseudonym as another way of tapping into covered up creativity. Worth the price of admission just for that.

    What really spiked my graph (and for a few others, based on the comments) were the big arrows pointing to the underlying stuff… which I reckon is about identity and authenticity. Can you be authentic if your identity is created (at least some of the time)? Does a name really have that much power – to change who we are are?

    And who gets to decide who/what your identity is anyway? Is ‘the real you’ something to be discovered/found, or something to be created? Just ‘cos it’s not on your birth certificate and you could be drafted using it, is your chosen name not really your name? Who says? When I got married and changed my name, I had a number of “feminist” friends who were horrified — not at the name changing itself (if I’d decided to change it to Jill, Warrior Princess they probably wouldn’t have had a problem, although that looks dumb on a drivers license). But because of the reason I changed it (for a GUY, you changed your name?). Interesting to note a growing global trend of more men changing their names to their wives last names, after getting married. Names are labels that we give a lot of meaning to.

    Brings up the issue of how accurately those labels describe their contents. If I buy strawberry jam and it contains peanut butter, I’ll be pissed that the label was incorrect (and probably feel a bit stupid that I didn’t look more closely at what I was buying). Johnny B Truant seems to be a ‘label’ that accurately describes its ‘contents’. I also find it fascinating, JBT, that on your Jam site with Charlie, you use photos. Am guessing they are the real you and Charlie.

    This post could push your buttons if you were exploring issues of your own ‘label’ or your own ‘contents’. It pushed mine.

    Even if I’m not considering using a pseudonym for my writing, the philosophical (and practical) issues of identity and authenticity are universal. This post sticks a bit metal spoon in that pot and gives it a giant stir.


  94. Truer words have never been spoken. We are so concerned about what others think that we are not being REALLY true to ourselves. It all goes to the want to be accepted and liked. The best performers in any field are not the ones who are universally liked, because that is truly impossible. The best performers are the ones who do/write/say what they want. Anyone can love it or hate it, but they are happy with it because it is exactly what they want to do.

  95. I laughed hard at Drew’s comment. It’s the blogger’s condition.

    @Jill – I use photos everywhere, actually — on my site, on the Jams, on Twitter, Facebook, whatever. I also have videos out there. I’m not hiding… the name is just different, but that’s it.

  96. This is a great article, and addresses some of the very things I’ve been overcoming with creating my new blog. I ran up against all those same concerns; will my Mom think? What will my former boss think? Will my subjects or presentation reveal more to my friends than I’d want them to know about me?
    You can’t worry about those things if you want powerful writing. Thanks for the insights!

  97. We live in a “civilized” society, where we keep true emotions bottled up, because that’s the “normal” thing to do. The reason I started blogging, this was before blogging could even be considered as a profession, was to release the stress from my crappy job. If you have a business blog, try setting up a more personal blog too, where you can really let go and enjoy being yourself.

  98. In awe. Honestly, G—I mean Johnny, I’m in awe. This declaration of identity is a big reason I’m moving to PDX, a big reason for a lot of stuff I gotta do.

    You created seperation and let yourself loose, and JBT took over more and more in the time I knew you.

    I look forward to more from you, bunky.

  99. I think a lot of bloggers and article writers should have a chance to read this article. It would the cause of massive attack of new articles online. This article is great! I think it would really make people exceed their capacity in writing and in time they would still be improving and they would be able to write more. This is just simple yet effective. And that is the great thing about it because people would really want things to be simple yet effective.

    Great article! thanks!


  100. The problem with the alter ego is that some day you may want to go to a conference, or do an interview where you are visible.

    I agree that the alter ego makes writing easier. But it also limits your options.

    You have obviously had great success as an alter ego.
    At one point in my blogging I did as well.
    But it does limit you. Just saying..

  101. @Glen, that’s a very good point, and we probably should have gone into it a tiny bit more in the post. Johnny’s always been quite open about JBT being a pseudonym, so it was never a big secret he had to hide. So for example, he went to South by Southwest a couple of months ago and hung out with the Third Tribe group at our meetup, and was able to take advantage of all the benefits of being his “real self.”

    I think the way he’s handled it is so smart, and a really good model for people struggling with the issues he talks about. Not the only model, of course, but something for people to think about.

  102. Hmm, I’ve been thinking about this over the weekend. I like my name, it kind of stands out, people remember it. But if i’d had a boring name like the one I was born with, I might have used a pseudonym.

    Using my real name is, also, a way to get the real Alison out. I have a very conventional life but feel very different underneath and that doesn’t get exposed as I go about the school run. I like to surprise people, make them raise their eyebrows and blogging under my own name makes that happen. I do censor what I write a little, I really don’t want to offend the school secretary – that would be bad, but on the whole it’s all out there and I see blogging under my own name as a way to get my more authentic self out there, not just the one defined by my roles in life.

  103. Just last week I decided that my cojones were not all that big. Sad, huh? But, I do have things I want to say. I am afraid to say them as me; so Buddy Vapesit was born. He’s a Tony Stark kinda guy, the man I want to be, sometimes. So, he was born and is already making friends. He has said things that many of my associates would never hear me say. How do we get to the place that says we shoul;d be ashamed of who we are? Why do we harbor so much fear about what others think? Gramma has probably done more, seen more and enjoyed life more than some of us ever will, but we don’t want to offend her with our lack of sensibility or our outrageous thoughts. Thank You Johnny B for this post. I appreciate it and buddy agrees with it

  104. People have been writing under pseudonyms for eons. It’s no big deal. It’s a choice. Often dictated by fear.

    The magic is in knowing WHAT you want to say and to whom. Having a persona with no voice is like having an ashtray on a motorbike.

    Thanks for declaring and explaining. Be an authentic you … whatever your name is.

  105. “I can’t stop thinking about Johnny B. Truant.

    Not in a way that he or you should be concerned about, you understand. No, I can’t stop thinking about the fact he came out and admitted Johnny was simply an identity he created to allow himself to get unstuck. He used this alter ego to start writing better than he ever had before without worrying what anyone else thought.

    I feel as though I’ve had an epiphany. Not just about my writing…”

  106. I totally get this. I hadn’t looked at it this way before, but I happened on this very strategy for my blog, and it was fun to read your insights about it. Thanks!

  107. Great piece Johnny. Got me all fired up, thinking about alter egos and multiple personalities. And so I’ll go ahead and misquote one of my favourite books about the benefits of madness:

    ‘without a little madness, you can never cut the rope that sets you free”
    -Zorba the Greek

  108. “Johnny is to me what Tyler Durden was to the narrator of Fight Club”

    Or like what Johnny Truant was to the author of House of Leaves?

  109. I’m glad I read this. First visit here. Anyway I have always thought of myself as- well… my favorite quote is – never mind what they think, think what they never mind.
    Then I started writing. And get this, I censor myself all the time. Being a mother of three makes me hold back on writing anything which could possibly lead to harm of a child- fear of a child – danger for children – anything bad. Which in turn takes all the thrills out of my work. I doubt I’ll use a pen name, I will however allow that other person to come out. Thanks for the tips – and of course reminding me to live by my favorite quote even when i write.

  110. Have fun! And I do imagine you could censor less. Unless you’re writing about running with scissors, I’m betting not a lot of things you might write about would harm a child. (And that’s even leaving aside the quite valid argument that WORDS won’t hurt anyone!)

  111. This relates me, Really! Having a different web name can make wonders — although am not that good at expressing my opinions, but with different name I do it much better.

    Great piece of article, Johnny.

  112. Thanks for this, Johnny. I stumbled across this post as I was searching for something, anything, written on the therapeutic or cathartic benefits of adopting an alter ego to face fears & anxieties around work or creative endeavors. I recently created an alter-ego for just that purpose. For whatever reason, I’ve come to realize that I’m too wounded and scared to do what I have to do in this world to achieve my dreams. My alter-ego, on the other hand, believes that I can do anything I set my mind to and is ready and willing to take the helm of this life so that “we” can both move forward. I have not been able to talk about this to anyone because I suspect some people will think it’s proof I’m crazy. So, I appreciate reading about your experience and it gives me the confidence that this is a way forward.

  113. Thanks for the great advice. New years is a great time to refocus and come up with some new goals for any small business. Look over last years profits and this year, reach a little higher. Thanks.

  114. Hi Johnny, I’m listening to your fascinating webinar with Jon Morrow. Your reference to JBT as your pen name, freeing you to write more effectively, reminds me of the ‘Masks and Trance’ section in Keith Johnstone’s remarkable book ‘IMPRO: Improvisation and the Theatre’.

    Available from Amazon, and highly recommended, I think it will resonate with Jon and yourself.

    BTW, Although I’m not interested in theatre, when I chanced upon this book, I found it hard to put down.

      • You’re welcome Johnny. “The Hero . . .”, from memory a classic by Joseph Campbell?

        Maybe I should read it, but not till I’ve finished “Hairy Pothead and the Stoned Philosopher.”

        (Whoops! Sonia’s comment just vanished. Nothing to do with HP I hope.)

    • Well, there’s no fine line. Having the kind-of-alter-ego allows me to be more free when writing, but it’s not like I actually DO different things or act different ways. Does that make sense?

      Probably not, since the entire post is about how there’s a difference. But there is and there isn’t.

      Short answer is that I wouldn’t say anything leaks through, but that’s mainly because day-to-day it doesn’t feel like there’s a sharp differentiation between the two.

  115. Actually, Johnny, when I first viewed the image of you biting an apple, I read the text that followed, and imagined a fast-talking Yankee who’d sell me the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, if I’d let him.

    Imagine my surprise when I first listened to you on a webinar: softly-spoken, civilised, attentive.

    That’s life; full of surprises.

    • I’m beginning to wonder how brutally my reputation precedes me… every once in a while, I hear a comment like yours and it makes me think I should do more audio/video or something.

      And thank you!

  116. I’ve been out of the loop with Copyblogger recently, and this post popped into my inbox at exactly the right moment.
    Sometimes wearing a mask can help you remove the one that holds you back. Brilliant, sparkling words.

  117. Wow that was freakin’ awesome, and exactly what I needed to hear!

    What an empowering (for me) read.

    I love this concept.

    I’m not going off to change my name….yet, but this gives me a perfect perspective to work with, as this hits something head on which I have been pondering.

  118. Hey Johnny – I’m on the Bootstrap Bootcamp call with you even as I write this and am SO inspired by what you and Jon are sharing and talking about. I came to this site because I hadn’t been here yet and I wanted to learn more about your writing, failures, successes, etc. Thanks for your content. Thanks for your writing. And thanks for your honesty. And while I’m not going to (have to?) change my name, I do know that there’s definitely another “voice” that has been engaging me in my writing these days that needs to be…no, f’in demands to be heard, even on the topic of meditation! One-thousand thanks to you brother!! Take care, Jerome

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