Guest Blogger: A Writer’s Identity
by Robyn Martins
If I were one-dimensional, I could define myself with a single word or phrase. I am a mother, or I am a graphic designer, or I am a musician. I cook. I knit. I read books. I like to sing along with James Taylor and The Eagles. I voted for Obama. I am bad at math. I hate sports. I am an avid fan of old movies, and Jimmy Stewart was a god.
But I’ve got many layers and cannot be defined by one single label. It is the sum of all my interests and activities and roles that provides my comprehensive profile and distinguishes me from the woman across the street and the guy on the other side of town. Even if the neighbor lady is as bad at math as I am, she may prefer singing along with Billy Holiday to James Taylor. And maybe the guy on the east side loves to read but is a whiz at fly fishing, which couldn’t appeal to me any less than it does.
Not only do my characteristics and interests combine to define me, but they change as I evolve and enter into new phases, piling on more layers. I wasn’t always a musician, but now I am a member of a community orchestra. There was a time when I didn’t know how to knit, but now I can make hats and scarves like nobody’s business. I used to survive on Weaver’s frozen chicken and spaghetti with sauce from a jar, but now I can put together a meal that would make you think you’re sitting in Ina Garten’s very own kitchen, or maybe the kitchen of her cousin once removed. And who knows what I’ll learn tomorrow that I can add to the list of what defines me.
Whatever I am on any given day or at any given moment as I pursue an interest or fulfill an obligation, I am a writer and have been since childhood. It’s a part of my identity that is woven into all of the other parts. It’s not the one thing that describes me, but it’s an essential and prominent element of my description. Writing is not my vocation but my preferred avocation—I’ve never earned a cent from anything I’ve written. Even my local newspaper that prints my articles nearly once a week doesn’t pay me a dime for my trouble.
No matter how doggedly, and so far unsuccessfully, I hunt for an agent, or how often I send submissions to Salon that end up in someone’s desktop trash bin, I still confidently call myself a writer, although sometimes I waver. In that local newspaper I mentioned, someone wrote in to criticize my opinion on something or other but finished by saying that I write with a skill that is well above average. That was something, enough of a bone tossed my way to encourage me to continue including the term “writer” among my other attributes and to write every day to prove it, even for free.
I can’t seem to help myself. I perform a concert with the orchestra and write about it the next day. I cook a delicious meal and sit down to describe the experience on my blog. I even write about knitting baby hats and singing Sweet Baby James to myself in the car and how Jimmy Stewart delivers his lines like butter in Harvey. You’ve got to be some kind of a kook to do that. Or among other things, a writer, through and through.
When you define yourself in all of your roles and interests, what are the top five words or phrases that best describe you?
Among many things, Robyn Martins is a musician, graphic designer, and writer living in Ohio.