Someone recently asked about my alias of Ritergal. “Do you have a split personality or something?” he quipped.
“Well, actually, yes,” I replied, “or at least I used to.” I went on to explain that although I had not yet met her, my muse Sarabelle bestowed this name on me seven years ago in 2000. That’s the only way I can explain it. She gifted me with it for the purpose of keeping Ritergal’s Story Site anonymous. I wanted to share some stories, while safeguarding the privacy of others. Ritergal was a great cover, with no link to my “real” persona.
Sarabelle knew what she was doing. She knew I’d like that name, that I'd find it dashing and jaunty. She knew it would challenge me. Indeed it did! I felt a bit like a little kid playing dress-up. In the early years I found it easier to write certain things if I put on my Ritergal cape. Ritergal was more daring than Sharon could imagine being. Ritergal could be sassy and true, or gently tender, as the need arose. Ritergal wrote outside Sharon’s boundaries, though she seldom took the results public. Sharon was better at details and documenting. She was a great editor and organizer. She did the geeky layout stuff.
Ritergal played a crucial role in my development as a writer, but as I drifted away from posting on that website, Ritergal took a nap. She woke up again in February 2006, when I began this blog.
“Hey there! Remember me? I want a piece of this action, and you know we make a great team... how about it?”
“You bet! Where have you been?”
“Giving you a break. Now it’s time to get to work.”
I’m so happy she’s back and part of my life; part of me. She’s especially obliging about providing cover in public places like writer’s forums. In fact, she may be more widely recognized than Sharon, but just as the world can easily discover that SARK carries Susan Ariel Kennedy’s passport, Ritergal no longer hides her DMV identity.
When I say she’s part of me, I mean that with my whole heart and my whole brain. Until recently, I considered Ritergal to be a bit of a charade. She was the real writer Sharon aspired to become, as in when I grow up, I want to be a writer.
Sometime over the last several months I realized that being a writer isn’t something that can be measured by numbers of stories, publishing credits, or anything tangible. Being a writer is a way of thinking, a way of analyzing feelings and experiences to articulate them in succulent ways. Being a writer involves experiencing the moment in full, living color, and consciously anchoring the details in a neural databank, with organized tags for convenient retrieval. It means living life as an observer and interpreter of the human experience.
Being a writer also means writing — writing more than grocery lists. Email counts, as long as it includes more than “See you then.” I'm often asked if I write every day. Yes. I write every day, I eat every day, and I breath every day. Some days I get dressed and leave the house.
I can’t point to a date for the transition, but a few months ago I realized that Ritergal’s cape had become comfortable. It fit. It was warm and cozy. I no longer had to hide behind the curtain while Ritergal was in the forefront. Ritergal and I have fused as surely as our son John became Lippy. Ritergal is no longer that mysterious essence I hope to live up to — Ritergal is uniquely me.
I strongly encourage any aspiring writer out there to consult your muse to find and claim your Writer Name. Claim it in gmail. Claim it in forums. Use it and grow into it.
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal