Sometimes all a writer has is their name. And sometimes they don’t even have that.
Words are intangible. When you speak them, they do not last. They can be misheard, or forgotten, or misquoted. They can be claimed by someone else.
When you write online as I do, it is easy for your words to be separated from your name.
Not long after I wrote The Brutal Truth About the Third Child, a post about the differences between my three different pregnancies, a friend sent me an email with the comment ‘here’s a really funny story about having three kids, I thought you might like it’.
I did like it. I wrote it.
She had been sent an email with the body of my post cut out of my blog, and she had simply forwarded it to me. I am sure that whoever did the initial cutting and pasting did not mean anything malicious by it, indeed, they must have enjoyed my writing enough to send it to friends. But they had removed my name from the piece, and therefore took the one thing that linked me to my words.
Watching the stats for that one post, as it went a bit viral and bounced around the net, I was stunned by the numbers of people who were clicking on my blog to read that post.
But I was equally stunned by the fact that the numbers were not changing significantly on the hundreds of other posts on my blog.
Didn’t they like me? Why weren’t they sticking around and following my blog?
It has taken me a while to realise that – with a few exceptions – readers don’t care about the writers. They care about words, they care about stories and how they make them feel, but they don’t really care about the person who put they words together.
I prove this to myself almost every day when someone sends me a link or shares a post, which I then click on and read, laugh or frown or weep, and then click away again. I might click ‘like’ or share the post, but rarely do I stay to poke around the blog. Why? My time is short, my attention span limited, and sometimes I can see that the post is not reflective of the rest of the blog.
For whatever reason, it seems it is the individual piece of writing that has life and is important, not the individual who wrote it. As someone who writes for a living, this has been a bitter pill to swallow. While there are beloved family and friends who will read whatever you write because you are you, they tend to be the exception, rather than the rule.
So this is why I feel that having your name attached to your writing is important. It might be an exercise in futility because of everything I just mentioned, but every now and then, someone will see your name and begin to associate your words with a person, and a relationship is forged.
So why is it then, that everyone keeps getting my name wrong?
The first time I was published in the newspaper, having won a short story competition, my name was written as Shannon Meyerkor.
Then, when I published an article about having a caesarean section in Offspring, a national parenting and lifestyle magazine, I was credited in the front of the magazine as Shannon Meyerkart.
Most recently, in a story in the Sunday Times where I was interviewed about my article about share food etiquette, the caption under the photo has me as Shannon Merykort.
I have to admit, I like Merykort the most so far. It makes me sound happy.
When I read stories to my children before bed, I make certain I always read out the name of the author and illustrator after I read the title. It is their link to the stories that make my children happy, and I want them to understand that a person somewhere, behind a computer, has put these words together: it is their livelihood, it is their talent, it is their gift.