Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Writer vs. Author

Recently I have found myself in a position to critique other people's work. I have read some truly amazing bits of writing, and also some truly terrible bits of writing. But my job is not to tell a person that their writing may be terrible, but rather to give positive, encouraging feedback to help them learn more and perhaps improve their writing. However, this experience has put me to mind thinking about where I started and where I am now. My writing was on the 'truly terrible' end when I first attempted to put the stories from my mind into paper. Yet, over the last fifteen years I have studied, worked, written and rewritten, and polished my style and my writing.
Thinking on this, however, I had to ask myself (when seeing some of these terrible pieces I was critiquing) if it was fair for all those who write stories to be lumped into the general category of being a "writer." Or for that matter, even the category of an "author." This second thought frightened me even more than the first and I was very off put by the idea that someone who just whipped out a story, terrible as it may be, and I would both be called authors. It was as if my years of work seemed to count for nothing next to this minor input of effort to write a book. Thankfully, several of my wonderful family members stepped in and reminded me that BEING AN AUTHOR IS AN EARNED TITLE.
This is not to say that those who write terrible at this time cannot one day be considered to be "authors," but rather that it is through time and effort that the title is earned. So what is it that discerns a 'writer' - which is anyone who can write - from an 'author?" What makes you earn that title? I think it is the time and effort that is put into getting the education, researching, writing, rewriting, killing off a manuscript and starting new even though it was your baby and you loved it, and honestly putting your whole heart into what you enjoy and loving what you create.

And that was when it dawned on me that "Anyone can write, but an author creates."
Just to be sure I was not making things up in order to satisfy my wounded pride in the moment, I went to the Webster's new World Dictionary (my favorite companion along side the thesaurus) and found two very interesting definitions:

Writer n. one who writes

Author n. one who makes or creates something

I realized that I have been striving to write something well, and to make it memorable, and to show the world my talent and have them WANT my book out there for others to read and share in my joy of creating. Writing a book and creating a story can be the same thing, but can also be totally and completely different. Creating a story takes time, passion, talent, research, and a drive that sometimes keeps you up all night because you don't want to let your characters down. It making a world that draws people in and  becomes real - smells that permeate from the pages of the book as the setting springs up around the reader. Characters that walk off the pages and don't let a reader forget them even long after the book is closed and done. It's creating life in the pages of that manuscript.
Suddenly my effort was made worth it when I realized that my goal is not just to be published, but to have my book loved, desired by others, and treasured for the story it tells. As long as I can share my creativity and love of writing with another person, and make that person feel my passion and my joy through the story that I have written, then I have succeeded.
That is how I became an author. I created!

6 comments:

  1. Great points! For me, being an author means a dedication to the craft unlike someone who writes for the hobby. I made my email one that labeled me as an author to remind me that the distinction lies in the fame of mind and that the end goal is to someday have a real published novel where the title will become more real and the email more important.

    Also, critiquing bad writing is important for the person writing it. We can't improve if we don't know what we're doing wrong. :)

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  2. I do agree. It's always nice when things we make up to heal our wounded pride turn out to be right. I must say, there are a lot of published books out there written by "writers" not "authors".

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  4. Marsha Ward's comment was removed above, but I would like to re-post it here because I enjoyed hearing the differing opinions and I felt it was good insight to how others might feel/think about this post.
    Thank you Marsha for your comment!

    "There is another side to this question. Some people of my acquaintance (they are multi-published professionals of both fiction and non-fiction) believe that "writers write; authors have written." In other words, according to their thoughts, a writer is constantly working on the next thing, and an author spends a lot of time publicizing and being prideful about their one and only book.

    I have seen this happen. I'm not sure where I stand. I think I tend to agree with the people I cited. I most often call myself a writer, because I'm not necessarily a specialist, that is, only a novelist (although I have written four acclaimed novels). I've been a journalist, have written sections in two non-fiction instructional books, and have had two essays published in anthologies. So, am I an "author?" I think my writerhood includes the author stamp, too."

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  5. Oh my goodness I love this post! I here both terms being thrown around for the same thing and knowing there is an actual difference (and what that difference is) just made my day! I finally feel like an author!

    Thank you!

    Konstanz Silverbow
    nothoughts2small.blogspot.com

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  6. My definition of a writer is that he or she enjoys that creative process so much that it's their number one choice of career or pass time or activity. I've always loved to write, but it wasn't until I started blogging that I called myself "wanna be writer seeks place to vent, practice, and share" as the tagline on my blog. Blogging, in my mind, made me a writer because people were now reading what I was writing.
    My definition of author is someone who has been published. When I published my first story, I considered myself an author because I had a "stamp of approval" of professionals who thought my work was good enough to be in the anthology.
    Your definitions make perfect sense to me - I think we all see things a bit differently, even though we are all working in the same field, with it's multitude of variations.
    GREAT post.
    Tina @ Life is Good
    http://kmdlifeisgood.blogspot.com/
    P.S Konstanz sent me

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Thank you for your comments!