Writer vs. Author

I lurk on various writing yahoogroups, cutting and pasting conversation pieces into documents so that I have them for future reference. LLC’s vs. S-corps. DBA’s, EIN’s, boxed sets, cover art and fonts … all kinds of stuff gets brought up that strikes me as “I may want to keep that for when I’m ready to press the button, and I’m not all that interested in fishing through the archives to find it again.”

Recently there was a discussion in which the definition of “Author” vs. “Writer” came up.

It was universally accepted by those that participated in this discussion that “a Writer” could be anybody and their pet pig. If you scribble words in a journal while hiding in your closet, tap out poetry on your blog, post comments on articles, plot out a story or even write the post-it note that inevitably ends up on the office fridge at least once (“To the asshole who stole my lasagna – If I catch you, you die.”), everyone is a writer. Writing is essential to communication.

Ah, but an “Author” is the person who doesn’t keep their secret scribbles to themselves. An “Author” has published, either traditionally or through self-pub for all the world to see. An “Author” has taken the terrifying step of baring their soul for the world to see, prepared for the worst reception imaginable, but desperately praying to every god of the arts that has ever existed in human history for the best. An “Author” has essentially said “look at my big brass balls,” and wags them around for general commentary, awe and ridicule.

The theory seems to be that “Authors” have stopped talking about it and actually did it, thus allowing them to step up a little higher on the ladder of achievement. “Authors” have bragging rights.

You, the lowly writer, have doodle-squat, and Doodle was just seen leaving town humming a Rev War era protest song under his breath.

One part of this discussion contained a writer who mentioned they weren’t yet ready to publish. Speed of creation for a story was cited, saving funds to pay for professional editing and cover art were listed. Family. Work. Necessary house repairs. Taking care of a bullying situation involving the family pit bull being victimized by the neighbor’s chihuahua. In other words: life gets in the way of making things happen now.

Several authors responded with “Don’t wait until you’re ready. You’ll never be ready, and there’s always another excuse. Just do it.”

I understand where the sentiment comes from, and yes, it is inspiring. As was said in The Music Man – “If you always wait for tomorrow, all you’ll have is a collection of empty yesterdays.” Don’t be afraid of failure. Carpe Noctem, or something like that.

And it also totally missed the point that writer was getting at – it was incongruous with this little concept called “adult responsibility.”

If it’s just you – no kids, no spouse, no pet goldfish – or if you are lucky enough to have a spouse or an estate that allows you to publish with impunity, then yes, by all means, jump off that cliff and try to fly with your experimental jet-pack. It may work and there is something to be said for “at least you tried” should you spectacularly face-plant into the ground, forever immortalized in your most humiliating moment on Youtube.

Unfortunately, the rest of us have to live amongst the mortals.

I was talking with one of my characters the other day, (Shut up. You do it too.) and he pointed out something. “You can run a-muck without a plan – God knows I did – but that ain’t the best way to get ahead in this world. It’s better to have a plan, but keep yourself open to the possibilities at the same time.”

Planning requires that one listen to a whole different set of platitudes.

Whether you’re planning in minute detail or your goals are more fluid, it doesn’t matter. The question is: “Do you have a plan and are you working that plan?” Whether you’re tiptoeing your way to the finish line or hauling ass to break speed records it doesn’t matter. “Do you know where you’re going and how to get there?” is a far more important question than “Why the hell aren’t you there yet?”

The writer I mentioned above has plans. Unlike me, she talked about a very structured plan. She had long-range and short term goals. She had dates, word count deadlines and start-up costs all carefully plotted out. You could almost envision this woman bent over a desk with a huge piece of paper and a line drawn through the center as she time-lined every little detail, like a mastermind criminal.

My plans are more fluid. I’m saving money monthly. When I’m 45 (6 years as of this writing), I’ll get my LLC/DBA, register this, pay for that, buy those, tweak here, rub it there, slap my manuscript on its ass and send it out into the big bad world with a kiss and a hug. “Have fun. I’ll miss you. Write me.”

This being said, I haven’t decide which manuscript/series will be first. I haven’t plotted release dates or time intervals between publication.  My steampunk series totally muffed up this year’s writing plans. I was not expecting that story to happen but it did and it seems to be trying to blossom into a series. Which is both awesome and irritating, because I hadn’t planned for that.

But what good is a plan if one isn’t open to the possibilities that may come along the way?

I suppose the point I’m trying to make, in a very roundabout fashion, is that just because you haven’t published yet doesn’t mean you are worth less than if you have. Just because the world has not yet been exposed to the awesome fury of your work does not mean you are worth less than the Author with 40+ books under their belt.

Now, if I could just get myself to believe that, everything else would be a cakewalk.


About kattywampusbooks

A SAHM with delusions of literacy.
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One Response to Writer vs. Author

  1. doreeweller says:

    I don’t agree with the distinction between authors and writers, that “writers” are anyone who write anything down. I’ve wired in a socket before, but that doesn’t make me an electrician. Just because someone has basic skills doesn’t mean they can claim the title. As for the rest of it… all that talk of plans was so frightening to me that I kind of blanked out. I’m going to drink some more coffee to console myself that you were just trying to scare me. Plans… ha!


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