Writer vs Author and Why I Want to be Both
This is one of those topics I’ve mulled over for my entire writing life. It’s become more pertinent recently, since I’ve transitioned more into adulthood, graduated college, and people have been asking what I plan on doing. As soon as you tell people that your goal is to become a published author, you’ll inevitably start to hear suggestions that you should just write as a hobby. What I’ve come to realize is that people don’t understand the distinction between writer and author all that well — even in the writing community.
Here’s the simplest possible way to explain it (in the world of books): authors are published, writers are not. If you are an author, you are also a writer. But unless you’re published, calling yourself an author is a misrepresentation.
Also, I made this nifty infograph… because I love infographs.
Now, I get that there is this power behind the word “author,” and that many aspiring authors have appropriated it for their own use, published or not. Call me old fashioned, but I just can’t call myself an author before I’m published. Yes, I have “authored” works — they have originated from me. But I’m still just a writer.
There is nothing — and I mean nothing — wrong with being “just a writer.” When did it become so horrible to say that we’re not something that… well, we’re not?
I am not the President, either, because I haven’t had a long political career ending in a gigantic campaign to be the figurehead of the country. I am not an author, because I’m not published yet. I am not less of a citizen because I’m not the President or less of a writer because I’m not an author. No shame, folks! It’s just a matter of definition and status.
My entire writing journey is about transitioning from a writer to an author. I’ve had a lot of time to think about the significance of being an author, or at least what it means to me personally. The way I see it, there are really only a few reasons that people write at all and want this as a career.
1. Fame. Some people just want to have their name recognized. They want to be the person who wrote ____. Most established authors will tell you this is a terrible reason to pursue writing as a career, because of all the entertainment media out there, books probably earn you the least name/face recognition.
2. Money. TONS of writers I know are sure that their book is the next Harry Potter and will make them millions of dollars and get picked up for a movie deal. Again, terrible reason to pursue writing. There’s an average of 300,000 books published per year in the United States alone — and something like 1,000,000 per year worldwide. Books that make millions are happy anomalies.
3. Satisfying personal love of writing. Probably what keeps most writers writing is the love of it — or the addiction to it. I literally can’t stop it, even when I’m in a period of thinking it’s an irrational thing to do for a career, it’s too hard, etc. The love of it keeps me going. I think this is also the reason some people just stay writers. They write for the love of it, but don’t feel the need to pursue it professionally.
4. Desire to share stories. My entire writing life is a combination of reasons 3 and 4. I love writing, so I write. But the real core of the reason why I want to be an author is this: I believe stories are meant to be shared. The most effective way for me to share my stories is through getting published. It’s as simple as that.
The stories that my favorite authors have shared through their published books helped make me the person I am. Those stories got me through some of the most difficult times. Those books were a refuge from life when it got to be too much. The characters enduring heartbreak, sickness, betrayal, difficult decisions, self-doubt, and life-changing events made me feel less isolated. These stories taught me compassion, mercy, justice, loyalty, and so much more.
Reading is a purely human phenomena. Its effect on the lives of people is astounding to me. No two people read one book the same way. Each book, each story, affects a reader differently. Some magical relationship happens between the characters, the story, and the reader. And I desperately want to play a part in creating that relationship, because I know how significant and impactful it can be.
This is what keeps me going when writing gets really difficult. I want to be a part of this magical thing that goes on. When I think about what books have meant to be, what reading in general has does to improve my life, I just can’t walk away from this whole writing journey. I want to be a piece in it, in providing other readers with the same experiences.
I want my characters to make readers feel like they’re not alone. I want my stories to make readers think differently about the world, about people, about relationships. I want my books to remind people that all of us are connected, even when we feel entirely isolated. I want to teach my readers what other authors have taught me.
To be courageous. To be loyal. To be honest. To be loving. To be compassionate. To be selfless. To believe in good over evil. To be hard-working. To never give up.