Why I Write With a Pseudonym
Unlike Marlo Stanfield, my name is not my name. It’s a pseudonym. Many famous writers have used this tool for a variety of reasons. J.K. Rowling (Robert Galbraith), Stephen King (Richard Bachman), Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain).
I am obviously not as famous or nearly as good as any of those writers. But still, I love to write and have my own pseudonym reasons. When I came up with my name, I had just watched episodes of Breaking Bad and Friday Night Lights.
Coach Eric Taylor.
I wanted to choose something better. Something more creative. More meaningful than Cap’n Cook and Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose. But time was short. I had a WarriorsWorld article to post and a Twitter account to create. So “Jesse Taylor” it was.
I had two reasons for creating the pseudonym and they both happened on the same day. October 2, 2012 was my last day of work and the opening of NBA training camp.
The company I worked for was sold. I had what they call a “Change In Control” contract. This meant I could stick with the new company, or take a “get out of jail free” card by leaving the company while still receiving a full salary and benefits for a year. A chance to do homework with my kids (8 and 6 years old) after school everyday, coach their sports teams and do some creative writing? Easiest choice I’ve ever made.
I’m a writer by trade. But in the corporate world, my titles usually include “public relations” or “corporate communications.” My goal in high school and college was to become a sports writer. But that quickly changed in 1996 when I landed a PR internship with the Sacramento Kings while finishing my senior year at Sac State. The money was awful, but the bright lights of the NBA were better than answering phones at a newspaper’s copy desk.
The internship started with three unpaid days in the office and $30 a night for working home games. After graduation, the Kings offered me a full-time job as a media relations/creative services assistant. I was paid $12,000 a year with no benefits. Dreams were more important than money at that young point in my life. When I met Mitch Richmond, my favorite Warriors player ever, I was happy surviving on Top Ramen and P, B & J for dinner every night.
This was 16 years ago, so inflation has lifted that financial number, but probably not by much. NBA teams have kids lining up outside their doors for jobs, so there’s not a lot of incentive to pay market rate for entry-to-mid-level jobs.
I still clung to my hope of becoming a sportswriter by serving as the sports editor for a weekly paper, The Folsom Telegraph, while using my NBA connections for freelance work with SLAM (shout out to Anna Gebbie), Inside Stuff and HOOP Magazines.
The lockout hit and I was lucky to keep my job and my dream alive with the Kings. When the season finally started in February of 1999, the Heat had an opening for their third PR spot, so I jumped on it and headed to Miami. A little more money. Still no benefits.
When the lockout ended, we sprinted through 50 games in four months. It was like PR boot camp. I worked seven days a week with zero days off during the season. On the plus side, on non-game days, I was young enough to forgo sleep to hit the Miami club scene with a few co-workers, one of which included a young video coordinator named Erik Spoelstra. He was one of the most friendly, welcoming and hard-working people I met in Miami.
After one season with the Heat, my old boss with the Kings joined the Warriors and offered me a position in the summer of 1999. I couldn’t pass up a chance to move back home to the Bay and work for the team I idolized growing up. I spent three seasons with the Warriors (19, 17 and 21 wins), and before all the losing caused me to commit suicide, an opportunity with Reebok in 2002 took me to the Boston area for two years. I stopped freelancing for the magazines at this time and jumped head first into this new and exciting industry.
Engaged at the time to a fellow Californian, all that excitement at Reebok couldn’t get us through the cold New England winters. We moved back home, got married and I took a job with a Bay Area PR/Ad agency. Then, from 2005-12 I worked for a medium-sized cable TV/Internet provider that competed with Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner.
Which leads me back to October 2012. As I began my sabbatical, I saw WarriorsWorld editor Rasheed Malek tweet about needing writers and was quick to sign up. I gave Sheed my background info, but asked if I could keep my identity private once I started writing, which he agreed to.
With a year to plan out my next career step, the pseudonym gave me the freedom to write however I wanted without worrying that it could be an issue during job interviews. This mock Sprewell choking oral history is a good example of something I may not have written without a pseudonym.
While I’ve always incorporated my personal/family life into my writing, I’ve stayed away from talking about the professional history I mentioned above. This helped keep my actual identity hidden. But it could be a writing hindrance at times and kept readers in the dark about my sports perspective (like this article, which some rightfully criticized me for acting above sitting in the upper level of an NBA arena).
Other than that, I haven’t found that the pseudonym has hurt me. At this point in my career, I am no longer trying to become a sports writer. I mean, unless Grantland comes calling with enough money to support my family and pay my mortgage, the reason I do this is because I value the chance to write about the NBA and the Warriors again.
Using a fake name hasn’t kept me from being true to who I am, and I make sure to only write things I believe. I don’t use the pseudonym to take an opposing view of my opinion and beliefs. However, at times, the pseudonym has alleviated concerns about writing or tweeting things I’d typically be worried about. Like saying David Lee had a 3-way with Chilli and T-Boz in the locker room after a great game in Atlanta. “I make up sex stories” was something I preferred to keep off my resume for job interviews.
But now, the job interviews are over. On Monday, August 26, I will once again wake up early, dress somewhat nice, hop on BART and walk into an office so I can receive a paycheck every two weeks. No more waking up at 7 a.m., pouring cereal and milk into Mickey Mouse bowls for the kids, and taking them to school in my flip flops, hoop shorts, “Warriors Ground” T-shirt and “The City” fitted.
If I could hang with my kids, coach youth sports and write for WarriorsWorld full-time, I would. But, you know, bills and healthcare are somewhat important in the real world.
I may not be able to write and tweet as frequently now, but I hope to continue working with WarriorsWorld. I still plan to keep the pseudonym so I can have that extra freedom and safely ease into my new gig; even though a smart Google user can probably figure out my real name. That’s okay. I may kill off Jesse Taylor at some point anyway (Who dies first? Jesse Pinkman or Jesse Taylor? That may be a question for Barnes Breaks Bad next week).
But for now, my WarriorsWorld alias will live to write another day while my name becomes my name again in the real world. Word to Marlo Stanfield.