What’s in a Name? Well, just enough to gum up the works, apparently.

I’ve had my poetry hat on all day. Well, okay, most of the day. I started my day with gorgeous spring weather and a hike with my mom at the nearest State Park.  When the weather’s nice, hiking is a way more engaging way to get one’s exercise than killing an hour in a stuffy gym, thanks.  Access to the park is only free until Memorial Day, so you can bet I’m going to take advantage of every nice day between now and then to get my hike on. After that I had a few small errands, which mom joined me on because the store was between the park and my house. The $4 clock I bought for the bathroom eight years ago finally died, so now we have a $5 clock. Naturally, I expect it to last at least as long.

And here’s a moment that describes my priorities:

Mom: *looks at clocks* “which one do you like?”

Me: *looks at price tags on clocks* “The one that’s $4.99.” (It’s a bathroom clock. Seriously, who cares?)

After making the roommie very happy about having a timepiece in the bathroom again, I settled in front of my computer with that gigantic mass of poetry files I’ve been working through. I’ve been trying to arrange them into groupings that will become albums.  I have mercilessly deleted all the junk that I’m never going to do anything with, and the ones I may revisit and revise are now in a “WIP” folder. This ratio is something like 98% recycle bin/2% WIP.

Everything else has been cordoned off in groupings, as I tried to find chunks of approximately 15 pieces that worked well together. This was easiest somewhere in the middle of the process. Early on, it was tough because there was SO much to go through that anything that either wasn’t just right, or in need of only minor edits got dragged into a ‘junk’ folder, just so I didn’t have as much to sift through. Towards the end, once I finally attended to that junk folder to determine what just needs some tweaking and what’s unrepentant garbage, it got hard because there just weren’t a lot of choices I could make. So the last two groupings it felt like I was choosing how to group them more based on ‘what is a less bad choice’ than ‘what is a good choice’.

Still, I’ve made some real, solid progress. It looks like, in terms of volume, what I’ve got is probably 11 albums worth of poetry to record, plus one print compilation of short pieces (things like haikus, or other things of roughly similar lengths, that just are too short to really be best as recorded pieces).  So, a dozen poetry THINGS, all said. That’s a lot of poetry to deal with all at once.

So, where do I go from here?

-Well, first I have to decide which chunk to start with and make any fine tuning edits to the pieces in that particular compilation.

-Then, I’ll have to arrange them, decide what order makes the most sense, what piece to open with, which piece to end with, and where the others should fall between them.

-After that, I’ll give them all fresh, clean recordings. This will be somewhat time consuming, as I’m going to make every effort to get clean recordings out of my seriously limited equipment. That leaves me with only one night a week I can possibly have any hope of working on this step, and while I wish I could do it all fancy with that atmosphere music you so often hear on spoken word albums, unless something changes between now and the final product, it’s not going to be possible; it requires several things I just don’t have access too and/or knowledge on.

In the process of all that, I have to start thinking about the artwork, and the finer details, not the least of which is…wth name I should use? I guess not everyone has that problem. I’ve spoken to some people in creative ventures who take it as obvious that of course you should use your real, legal name. I’ve had them say “your name is YOU. It’s who you are!” But, is it? Really? Not for all of us, it’s not. My legal name is a bit like an assigned seat in the front row of a class I didn’t want to take, but can’t get out of, so I’ve always thought in the exact opposite way, that it was obvious that I was going to work under a pen name; it goes without saying.  People have been calling me Shelby since I was a kid, but that’s not a name you’re going to find on any legal documents.

Actually, thanks to exceptionally poor planning on my parents’ part, I was “the baby” for the first several days of my life. They made an assumption that I was going to be a little boy, so never planned for the opposite, and once I popped out with the wrong biological parts, they couldn’t seem to hit on anything that they could agree on for…well…a while. Once they finally settled on something, they picked literally the most common name for little girls the year I was born. There were at least 3 of us in every class in grade school. I was the third, sometimes the fourth.  It gave me a really weird relationship with my name rooted firmly in…you know, hating it, basically. So, when my pre-pubescent social circle finally decided we’d had enough of the confusion of it all and started using nicknames, mine stuck. Forever, and it’s what I use to introduce myself to people to this day.

If my first name were the only problem, it would be easy though. It’s not. Because, in addition to having a stupidly common first name, I have an equally uncommon last name. It’s simple. It’s phonetic. It’s only 5 letters long. Thanks to illiterate ancestors, we anglicized the fuck out of it several generations ago, so that it’s not even recognizable when compared to its original form, and very few people have been able to figure out what corner of Europe it originated in. And yet, I have to repeat it, and spell it, and pronounce it slowly. EVERY. DAMN. TIME. Guys, I’m not gonna lie – that’s just as fucking annoying as having the same name as 25% of your class in grade school. I had teachers who could pronounce 17 letter Polish names that started with silent letters and had no vowels to speak of, but couldn’t make heads or tails out of my surname. It’s like people look at it, and their brain short circuits: ‘No. Wait. That’s way too easy. There has to be a trick.’ There is no trick, unless you count my eyebrow twitching every time someone butchers it a trick.

And sure, I can use my blog handle into infinity, but wait, NO, because “grrl with two r’s”?  There’s going to come a point that that’s going to get really annoying. After all, not having to spell my website at people is at least half the appeal of the new domain name.

Mother’s maiden name? Well, I do like my mother’s maiden name, but, sadly it’s the opposite of my surname – super crazy common. Now, I don’t expect to actually sell any poetry albums, but I would be stupid not to give myself a fighting chance, and sharing a name with enough people that you’ll be on page 10000000002 of a google search is not going to be very productive.

My middle name? Nope. I don’t have one of those middle names that can pass as a last name if you tilt your head and squint.

The street I grew up on? …was numeric, so that doesn’t work, either.

That doesn’t leave me with a lot of room to maneuver. Mostly, I’ve been picking apart letters from my grandparents’ names and trying to put them together in ways that look like they might be

a) unique

b) easy to spell and pronounce

c) not sound cheesy,

because I literally don’t know what other sources I can use to create a meaningful make-believe surname that I won’t grow to hate.

And, why am I worried about this now when I still obviously have so much work to do? Because I can’t design the artwork necessary to make all of this come together if I don’t even know how much space on a graphic my name and the album title are going to need. In fact, it’s safe to say I can barely work on the art at all without knowing exactly how much space I’m going to need for text. Since I can only get clean recordings on Thursdays when the roomie is out late, it would be great if I could work on roughing up art ideas on the noisy house days, but if I’m sitting here going ‘who the eff am I going to be for my arts and music stuff?’ I can’t design the art. I can’t even sign up for whatever sites I might need to to bring this media into the world. All because the idea of doing something as simple as choosing a pen name that I can commit to for an extended period of time without regretting it is about to bring the entire project to a crashing halt, which is just…an incredibly dumb reason to be unable to move forward.

Obviously, merging the blogs means picking one name for everything. Whatever I pick for this poetry project has to also work for all of my other stuff, because I’ll confuse the fuck out of everyone if I keep using different names for different projects, and swapping them out when I get bored. Putting everything on one blog was partially to quash the temptation to change names like hats. I’ve got to cut that shit out; it’s confusing, and not exactly search-engine friendly behavior.

So, I dunno. Do you guys want to be involved in the process? Should I throw names at you to see what sticks? Do you want to give me ideas other than ‘mother’s maiden name/middle name/street name’ to come up with a source of inspiration?  I do still have some time to stew on it, but I don’t have an infinite amount of time if I ever want to wrap up this epic poetry project, and I’m going to need to make a decision in the reasonably near future.

Who knew that this, of all stupid things, would be the wrench thrown into the works that’s halting my progress. Still, things are moving forward for now.

Until Next Time, dusting off the poetry hat, and fighting with the issue of hating my given name.

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