Thursday, May 23, 2013
Writer or Author...or Both
By OFW chief editor:
Published: October 11, 2012
There are assumptions made about this thing we call writing by both writers and normals that quite often annoy me. Okay, who are we kidding, there isn’t a lot that doesn’t annoy me. But the most frustrating of them all is the belief that a writer and an author are the same thing, or that a “writer” is not as “good as” an author (or vice versa) because they believe an author has published, whereas a writer has not, or that a writer is all about art, whereas an author is about business. Did that make any sense? It doesn’t matter. All of it is wrong.
Are you a writer or an author? I bet most of us are both, depending on the day. The thing is neither of these labels is good or bad. If you’re a writer who intends to publish, or one that has published, you will wear both hats at different times.
So, what’s the difference between an author and a writer? Well, for me, it’s quite simple:
These sound the same, but they are really quite different. Writers can be authors, but authors are very rarely writers. How is that? Because an author’s focus is very different than a writer’s.
A writer focuses on the story she’s working on at the moment and the next one she will write. She is constantly thinking in terms of the future. An author focuses on what she’s already written, and because of this, she is thinking about the past. In other words, writers are working on or thinking about the
project. Authors are working on selling the
An author is a writer that stops writing to promote and sell the book he has written. The writer promotes, yes, but she is already moving on to the next project. The moment a writer stops writing is the moment she is no more than an author. Am I confusing you yet?
The essential difference between the two is that you can be an author forever. Once having written something, you are forever the author of that work. You are not a writer 100 percent of the time, and you may not be considered a writer forever simply because you’ve worn the hat a couple of times.
It’s never bad to be just an author, just as it’s never bad to be just a writer, but those that become author and only author lose that drive or passion for simply creating. Whether that’s a negative thing depends on your goals and your focus.
Why am I defining all of this? Well, in the new age of publishing, where everyone’s an author and has a billion tips for writers, it’s essential to understand the difference between these two terms because if you want to be a writer, the author has few useful tips for you, and vice versa. Which are you?
We’re already buried in all kinds of advice, and new myths are bound to surface regarding writing tricks or rules. Don’t even bother trying to wade through it. You don’t have to do things this way or that way. Writers don’t have to do anything more than write, unless they want to shift into their author hat for a time. Authors don't have to write a single word if they choose not to, and they're still authors.
Right now, I might be considered an author. But I don’t have a book I’m actively trying to sell, so how is that possible? This site is about interacting with other writers. My articles are not designed to receive payment or sell product, but they do hold promotional intent and focus. I want you to know me, and to know my name. Just as writers joining sites such Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook; I do this sort of thing because I am looking for avenues to put myself out there, with the intent of promoting myself or my work. We’re authors when we’re networking. We are focusing on what we’ve written and how we can sell it.
The minute I turn from this site or any other social media type outlet, and open up that word document, I’m a writer again. The minute you stop reading this article and write that next scene, you’re also shifting back to writer. All writers worry about is when the next story will be done so we can get it to our readers and start on something new. When can I work on the next project? And the next?
If the only reason you write anything is to publish and sell your books, you are an author. You aren’t focusing on the creating; you’re focused on the selling. And let’s make it clear that there is absolutely
wrong with that. But if you’ve published that book and promoted then you sit back down to write and continue to do so for the sheer love, challenge or pleasure you derive from telling a story, you’re a writer.
So…is someone who doesn’t care about publishing a “real” writer or what? There is no such thing as a “real” writer. You either are or you aren’t. My point isn’t to divide the authors from the writers, although with the rise of self-publishing, I see this happening more each day. What we all need to keep in mind is this:
The difference between the two is in focus and intent and neither on is better than the other. All those self-published books on Amazon right now are all written by authors. Not all of them are written by writers. It’s one thing to publish and promote your new book. We have to do that. But when that break from writing to market what you’ve just done turns from a few weeks into months, and then to a year, maybe two, you cease to be a writer. If the intent behind what you write, whether or not you do so every day, is to sell said work as soon as you type “The End” you’re not a writer. These things are what authors do because being an author is a job, and the label of author is a title.
If you want to be an author, that’s fine. You have focus and you know what you want. Fantastic.
If you want to be a writer, you must write. It’s as simple as that. Writer is something you earn daily. Did you write today? Yes? Then you’re a writer. The moment you stop writing or thinking about writing, you’re no longer a writer. The good news is, the second you open that word document and begin with that first sentence, you’ve become a writer once more.
If anyone out there decides you have to justify your purpose, or prove that you are really a writer before you can join their club, they’re not writers. They’re probably not authors either. I’d call them assholes. Avoid them.
Writers don’t have to have published or sold a single book. Hell, you don’t even need to have a single reader. What you create doesn’t have to be brilliant. It doesn’t even have to be good. All you have to do is write.
I should also note that “writer” doesn’t mean “artist”. What you write might be art or it might not be, but you aren’t more or less of a writer because of that. I write fiction. I’m a writer. I freelance as well, writing stuff that is most assuredly not at all artistic. I’m still a writer then too. You wouldn’t say you’re a singer after singing or recording a single song. You wouldn’t say you’re an athlete because you once played on a sports team. So why, if you don’t actually write, should you be called a writer?
Author is not more important, and it’s not less important. It just means you’ve done the task. You can write one book and never publish it and you will always be the author of that one book. You can write a single article, publish it, but never write another thing again, and you’re still an author. You can impress friends every time you go out by truthfully saying, “I’m an author.” because yes, you did author something.
Personally, I’d rather be a writer. I’ve already earned the author title and it’s pleasant and fulfilling, and I'd love to do it again, but I want to keep writing above all else. And you over there, the girl who writes like a fiend, and has worked on the same manuscript for three years, but has no desire to publish, you’re just as much a writer as I am. You’re just as important and valid as I am. You’re a real writer. So am I. The author sitting next to you? He’s no different. He has written. Perhaps he’ll never write again. That doesn’t mean he’s more or less fabulous than you or me. He could earn the title of writer back tomorrow if he wants to, just as you could drop it.
There. I feel better, don’t you?
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