Midway, Ministry, Writing

I’m Nobody

I’m nobody! Who are you?

Are you nobody, too?

Then there ’s a pair of us—don’t tell!

They ’d banish us, you know.


How dreary to be somebody!        

How public, like a frog

To tell your name the livelong day

To an admiring bog!

~Emily Dickinson

I just changed my Twitter handle from an email nickname to my real name, which I’ve been slowly making more available to blog readers, too. It’s a strange journey from six or seven years ago, when I hadn’t thought about whether it mattered if I identified myself on the Internet, to joining the generation of anonymous or pseudonymous bloggers, and now to recognize that by cloaking myself in the persona (much enjoyed) of Songbird, I’ve done exactly the opposite of what I hoped to do when I began my work in ordained ministry, which is to forge my own identity.

Now, identity is not the same as fame. I never thought it was. If I wanted to leverage fame–someone else’s–I might have kept and traded on my maiden name. I was wearing it when I graduated from seminary. I could easily have kept it when I married again; I could have been ordained with it.

But I had this notion that I could be in the world with my own name, though borrowed from a spouse, and develop my own reputation as a pastor and a person and maybe a writer. I had no idea I would be building a group of friends and readers using a nickname; I could not imagine or predict Facebook, where I daily communicate with a strange admixture of childhood friends and mom or academic bloggers (met and unmet in real life) and people from right here in Maine and lots and lots of RevGalBlogPals and my own children, too. I couldn’t have foreseen Twitter, where in blasts of 140 characters I do–what? I don’t even know, really. Keep up with friends who are too busy to blog anymore, make a few new connections, carry on behind-the-scenes conversations if my tweets are “protected” as they sometimes are, and give up that hope in the seasons I decide they won’t be.

I don’t know how much I care anymore about being a writer, which is to say being published. There are those who would argue that if you are unpublished you are not a writer. And I suppose if I were called to write books, I would have had an idea for one by now. I hope, now that I’ll be preaching regularly again, to get back to writing about life and the lectionary here.

Mostly I’m a little sorry that a tremendous amount of my effort over the past five years belongs to a cartoon character more than to me. And at 49, I want to claim my work and my life, for me at least, whether or not it matters to anyone else.

I’m writing, even if that doesn’t make me a writer.

I’m Martha, and I’m nobody. Who are you?

19 thoughts on “I’m Nobody”

  1. I blog anonymously for various reasons, but also have a public blog. I have dual twitter accounts for the same reason.
    I don’t consider the identity I’m using here to be false, or less my own, than my public and professional identity — but I’m aware that there are levels of risk I am more willing to take with the relative safety of a nickname than I would with something more public. So I tweet about nitty gritty everyday things, and blog about my spiritual life, semi-anonymously, and I tweet and blog about more career-related things using accounts linked with my name.
    There are those who would argue that if you are unpublished you are not a writer.
    I disagree with those people!

  2. My writing class instructor calls me a writer in the present tense because since I write, I am a writer. If I were to be published, I would be a published writer.
    You certainly are a writer, one of the best I read. Add this post to the wonderful things you write.

  3. I’m Liz Miller and I welcome you to the land of the formerly anonymous blogger.

  4. I’m Kristen Nelson and I used to blog…but I stopped because somehow, I managed to give birth to children who are tremendously private. Me, not so much. I follow you on Twitter and love to read your perspective, so I’m very glad to discover your blog! I hope to figure out a way to blog again without mentioning my children. Haven’t figured that one out yet. : )

  5. I’m Julie but they call me Jules. They called me something else for a few years but I’ve said goodbye to that part of my life, and am just plain Jules.

  6. Personally, I think those who are driven to write, that write because it is what they do whether or not they are published are absolutely writers. Writers have love and passion for the written word and stringing together strands of thoughts and words to make something real–something true. I concur with Lauralew–you are a writer and a wonderful writer at that!

  7. When I was in CPE, I started to drop the “Rev Mommy” persona — revealing more and more of who I really am. It’s nice to meet you as Martha.

  8. Madeleine L’Engle would’ve, I think, seconded the notion that a writer is one who is compelled to write–published or not.
    The whole identity issue is complex; I don’t think “Rev. Dr. Mom” is any less who I am than the Rev. Dr. First Name Last Name, or Dr. Name, or just plain mom. It’s just one persona I’m known by–the way my students used to know me as “Prof. Name” while my kids know me as “Mom.” I’ve been thinking of various ways to reignite my blogging as it were, and using my professional name is one of them, but I’m still undecided about where to go with that.
    At any rate, I’m pleased to know you as Songbird AND Martha!

  9. I’ve always thought of you as a writer. It seems to me that you made the choice to be a writer a long time ago.

  10. I know you to be many things, and “nobody” isn’t among them. I’m glad that Songbird helped you find your voice and your way to this moment.
    It’s so strange to be contemplating the opposite move as so many of the RGBPs are moving toward full name-recognition (as it were)….

  11. I’m Mrs Redboots most places online, but I do use my real name, too. And you are not nobody – you are a precious child of God!

  12. “Writers have love and passion for the written word and stringing together strands of thoughts and words to make something real–something true.” – RevHipChick
    That sounds like you to me, definitely a writer. And as someone who has the pleasure of knowing you IRL, what is truly a gift is that you speak like that too.
    In my world, you are definitely a Somebody.

  13. I am debating the same thing, but I have not made the leap yet. We’ll see how life in the New Church shapes up first.
    The great paradox is of course that we are all Nobody and all Somebody.

  14. I’m just picking up your song cues everywhere today:
    Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong
    Whether I find a place in this world or never belong
    I gotta be me!
    Also, ditto what everybody else said about you are too a writer and somebody, etc. Sheesh! xo

  15. I haven’t quite figured out how yet, but this post is sticking with me in light of this coming Sunday’s gospel. I’m nobody–and–I’m somebody. And that has something to do with where I sit and something with God and where God sits and the parables Jesus tells.

  16. Love the photo too. I think it must be new, but ask you please to excuse my memory if I am wrong. Every Blessing as you get ready for your new ministry.

  17. #1 – I am late reading this (was still on vacay when you wrote it) but had wondered about your name change on Twitter. Love this post.
    #2 – I think of you as both Songbird and Martha, and love you as both.
    #3 – If you aren’t a writer, I don’t know who is. When I think of people I aspire to write like, you are at the top of the list.
    #4 – I disagree that if you were called to write books you would have an idea by now! You never know when inspiration might hit. (I recently read an essay by Ian Fleming about writing and was startled to discover that he didn’t write his first James Bond novel until he was 43! My dad finished his first novel when he was 60. Etc., etc.) (Of course I’m not saying that you have to write a book in order to be a writer).
    #5 – Emily Dickinson is one of my all-time faves, and this poem is my favorite of hers.
    #6 – Blessings on your last day before starting your new call!!

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