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Someone Else's Skin | Pretending With Pen Names

It's said that the most convincing actor is the four-year-old running around in a Batman cape because, as far as he's concerned, he is in fact, Batman.

It's also said that you need to dress for the job you want.

In recent weeks, I've seen clips circulating across my feeds of people donning Renaissance faire garb and other costumes when tackling housework. The basic idea is that if you hate cleaning, you can pretend to be someone else who doesn't mind it so much. The most common example I've seen of this is pretending to be a barmaid or tavern owner having to clean up the pub after a rowdy bunch of elves and bards have come through.

It's freaking brilliant.

I've loved seeing the creativity of it, with some people creating characters specifically for chores and just having fun with it. As someone who would imagine herself as Cinderella before the ball when tackling chores as a child, I truly appreciate it.

It's genuinely lovely to see folks making adult responsibilities less boring and overbearing.

I've been looking for ways to be more productive in general. Suffice it to say Long Covid has done a number on me.

Procrastinating by searching for productivity tips may seem counterintuitive, but there are nuggets of inspiration lingering in the ether.

Aside from the impact on day-to-day activities like the day job and household stuff, the area of my life that's been hit the worst as a result of my Long Covid symptoms has been my writing. For the past however long, the majority of the writing I've been doing has been for the blog as I'm not able to focus on longer pieces like my novel WIPs. Naturally, I've been searching for means of remedying the situation.

And considering I will gladly jump on any opportunity to dress up, this idea of creating a character to pretend to be while handling the more arduous tasks of adulthood is highly appealing. After all, I've always found it easier to focus when I have instrumental music on, especially when it's reminiscent o the time period or setting of the story, and using candles and incense to capture the scents of a story. It helps when you can feel like you're there alongside your characters.

Translating this concept of playing pretend to writing has been a great distraction amid the headaches (both physical and metaphorical) that come with the stress of chronic illness.

In some aspects, one could argue that I've already been embracing this method of pretending to be someone else. Pen names are sometimes viewed by non-writers as having an alter ego of sorts. For context, Avril is the name I use when blogging and the name I intend to publish my historical romances under, but it's not my legal name.

I decided I wanted to use a pseudonym pretty early on in my writing journey, mainly because I want a level of separation between my personal life and professional lifesomething that has become more important to me as social media continues to evolve (and as I've become more of an introvert in recent years).

Despite this, I've always viewed myself and Avril as one and the same. My life as a writer is just one facet of me as a human, as is my love for video games or never being able to turn down cheesecake or mozzarella sticks. I've never treated "Avril" as a different person.

But what if I did?

Now, fun as it would be, I don't see myself taking it to Hannah Montana levels and donning a wig anytime I have authorly events to attend.

I did, however, dress up for presentations a handful of times during college and had a blast doing it. I once wore a look inspired by a photo of Leo Tolstoy when I had a Powerpoint on the differences in Anna Karenina's Levin when he's in the city compared to his demeanor in the countryside.

Then there's the two-for-one when I had Regency-centric presentations in back-to-back classes and broke out my Jane Austen costume from the Halloween prior; first was reading from a Regency Era short story I had written, followed by presenting an analysis on word choice in Jane's letters regarding her relationship with Tom Lefroy.

I did a simpler take on this in senior year for my presentation on bookbinding and the physical copy of Bound to the Heart's first draft. This was just an empire waist shirt and tan jeggings with the boots. It got the point across.

In retrospect, I wish I had done so more often. Color-coordinating outfits with Powerpoint slides at the very least.

It helped me get into the right frame of mind to get up in front of the albeit small crowd and share my research findings or my writing.

One of my grander-scheme goals for this year and moving forwards has been bringing more of myself back into my writing, and that's something I think this notion of playing pretend to accomplish tasks can play into. It's just a matter of finding more of who this other facet of me is.

Who "Avril" is.

Maybe Avril won't don a wig whenever she steps out for writing engagements. She strikes me as more of a messy bun gal, honestly. Cozy sweaters and soft makeup with sharply winged eyeliner. Lo-fi music in the background. Fruity teas in pretty mugs and floral scents in the air.

Writers in the modern age often need to establish their brand online, which often includes themselves alongside their books, and that's something I have admittedly been slacking on. One of these days I'll get around to being on TikTok and Instagram.

While that may not be something I'm not necessarily comfortable with, it could be a space "Avril" could do well in.

I just need to find that side of writerly myself.



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