Monthly Archives: January 2016

Identity: Author vs. Writer

This is a question which has probably plagued the minds of anyone who does any sort of writing with any amount of seriousness, especially those of us who have written books in the past. Do I call myself a writer, or an author?

I’ve always favored the descriptor “writer” when referring to myself, though to my understanding this is oft regarded as the less formal, more hobbyist title, “I like to write things” vs. “I write books for a living” (I always interpreted the word Author to be a capital A profession). So given this, I wasn’t sure why I like the term ‘writer’ better. I certainly take my writing seriously, and while I have not made a career out of my writing, I do have published books (self-published, but published all the same) under my belt. For me, while it may never shape into a career, it’s my sole passion and I’ve certainly never used the word “writer” to diminish my status.

I think it’s the fact that Writer just looks better on paper, gets straight to the point, says out loud, in your face: I WRITE THE THINGS. And there’s a certain amount of satisfaction I get out of that. Just last year I made a Facebook page for myself and after waffling only a fraction of a second, chose the ‘writer’ description over ‘author’. There’s also the fact that I write poetry in addition to novels. I’ve always thought of the word “author” as strictly limited to novel-writing, and if novels are my passion, poetry is my soul, and I couldn’t just leave it out in the cold like that. “Writer” also seems to suggest someone who is constantly writing, consumed in the act of it, whereas “Author” seems more concentrated on “having written”, having credits to one’s name. I’m technically both, but I feel much more connected to the act of writing itself, producing new stuff, than I do to my past work.

So, great! Why are you telling me about this? It’s just that now I’m thinking about it critically, I’ve begun to wonder if I made the right choice for myself.

Before sitting down to write this, I went and did a simple google search for the difference between the two terms, which turned up a lot of interesting but varying and ultimately inconclusive takes on the matter. Here are some of the common ideas:

  • Author: someone who has published works to their name. Also, one who is the originator of their own ideas and plot. Treats their craft like a career, but also spends perhaps equal time promoting past work to what they do writing new material.
  • Writer: someone who writes anything, either as a hobby or for money. However, when paid, someone described as a writer is often doing work that more commissioned in nature- think Freelance Writer, Technical Writer or Ghostwriter, anything with an expected outcome they do not dictate themselves.

At the end of this research, I had to conclude that “Writer” is simply a much broader category that refers to a much broader range of people, which is what attracted me to it in the first place- it gave me more perceived ‘freedom’. I write. Therefore I am a writer. But I am also an author, and a poet- these are more specific types of writer, and I’m beginning to think of them as less confining than helpful, defining. I am an author, I am a poet. These are my areas. I’m willing to bet there are tons of people who are really extremely multi-faceted, for whom the phrase, ‘writer’, no qualifiers attached, is more helpful than harmful- but for me, I’m starting to find it’s a bit misleading.

Is this vague way I categorize myself the reason people sometimes come to me with a ‘great project’ in mind that I could take? In my head in these instances, I’m thinking, ‘by god, of course I will not write your novel for you, I only write my own. I will not write that article about something I am not equipped to write about, in fact, I will not volunteer to write anything I’m not absolutely passionate about- in other words (I’m fucking terrible, but) anything that was not my idea in the first place is pretty much out of the picture, I suppose unless I’m pitched something I really REALLY like (I’m starting to feel like this post could be called ‘why I’m shit at making any profit from writing’, but maybe we’ll save that for another day). But when I’m a self-described writer, how are they to know? How are those who don’t me as well to know what type of writing I do, or take on- if I’m an author, a freelancer, a journalist, a poet…? I’m unintentionally muddying the waters by leaving things false possibilities wide open. I guess, to be completely honest, I’ve thought of ‘author’ as a snottier term, but even so, I must admit I’m pretty fucking snotty about what I will and will not write, so perhaps even in that light it fits xD.

At the end of the day, neither term is really ‘better’ than the other in truth, it all depends on what is most helpful/useful to the person defining themselves. I’ll probably keep ‘writer’ up as my Facebook descriptor, seeing as you can’t make yourself both an author and a poet to my knowledge, and I honestly still prefer the term, the look of it on the page, but now I feel like I have a better grasp on the terminology. I’ll always be a writer, or, one who writes. It’s just time to get a little more specific when the situation calls for it.

Has anyone else had this dilemma before? I know there are other people who write novels who tend refer to themselves as simply writers (like I’ve been doing until recently), and I know there are even some who feel they’d like to identify as an ‘author’ but aren’t published, or don’t feel they have enough merit to their name to qualify. It’s an interesting topic for something you’d think would be so simple. Where do you fall in the spectrum/what is your own understanding of the difference between what it means to be a writer versus an author?

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New Year’s Resolution Time! {2016 edition}

OH HEY. Long time, no see, blogging world! I started last year by writing down a list of my resolutions for the new year and at that time I promised a check in of sorts around the end of it. So this post is going to be both addressing last year’s resolutions and how well I did in keeping them and putting up some new resolutions. LET’S SEE HOW I DID.

Last year’s resolutions:
1. submit writing more places: I actually did really well at this in the first few months of the year. Before 2015, my poetry hadn’t seen much more than the inside of my filing cabinet, and now it’s been published in a few excellent journals online. (you’ll eventually be able to see a list of places my poetry appears on the MY POETRY page here, once my ass gets around to it). I wish I’d kept this up for the whole year, but alas, I did not.
2. keep up with this blog: once again, after the first few months, this one went to the wayside (as you might’ve been able to deduce from the complete lack of activity on here).
3. read 100 books: I don’t even want to talk about how hard I failed here. I not only didn’t make it to the goal, but I read less than I’ve read any other year since I started listing my yearly books read (nearly 10 years ago, before I was on goodreads). My grand total was 21. I WEEP.
4. Eat healthier: didn’t take this one seriously until the end of the year, when I’d had it with feeling like total shit all the time, some of which could be attributed to my total shit diet (who knew? lol) and now I do a bit better with it. Not much to report, I’m no health guru by a long fucking shot, but hey, sometimes I snack on fruit instead of cupcakes so I don’t think I failed utterly here : )
5. Get dressed every day: nope. Nope. noooope.

Now, to be fair, 2015 was astonishingly successful in some ways that never showed up in my resolutions. I 1: finished the first draft of one novel and wrote an entire first draft of another novel, 2- began driving on the highway. This is a big breakthrough for me, as I’ve always had a lot of anxiety surrounding driving and highway driving in particular. 3- summoned the courage to participate in open mics for poetry and a couple book promotion events. These things are SUCH A MAJOR WIN for me.

Now, instead of going straight into listing my 2016 resolutions with bright-eyed and bushy-tailed vigor, I wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to something I ordered completely on impulse this year along with a new wall and desk calendar, which is THIS BOOK (pictured below and available for purchase here  by Lisa Jacobs )


I waffled about whether to buy this for a while before getting it, but MAN am I glad I did. It starts off with a section for review of the past year, filled with prompt questions, then moves on to plans for the new year, and then the final section is set up like a monthly planner in order to keep track of the stated goals, complete with a midyear review section and quarterly reflections. The questions are so pertinent to my craft too, which I was a little surprised at- I don’t know why, though, writing is after all a ‘creative business’. It’s so well-organized and thorough that it helped me put my thoughts in order in a way I’ve never done before. I always thought ‘sure, I know what I want to get out of this year’, but this book really is effective in peeling back vague ambitions to reveal concrete goals (also, may I just say that when the author uses her own workbook every year, you know you’ve struck gold). If you work at anything creative with any real seriousness and struggle due to being completely in charge of your own schedule/fitting that around the rest of your life, this is for you!! (I wasn’t paid to advertise this book, I’m just hella enthusiastic, guys.)

Okay, anyway. One of the things the Your Best Year 2016 book prompted me to do was to actually write out not only the things I failed at last year, but WHY it was that I failed and examine how not to make the same mistakes again.

For example, when I planned to submit more writing, I ultimately failed due to giving myself too much of a structured schedule to follow for submissions/hours spent working in general. When an event would come up in my life and I missed a day, everything went to hell because of this bizarre brand of perfectionism. This has been a character flaw of mine for a long time, something I’m trying to erase this year. When I planned to keep up with this blog, I did really great with weekly posts, until I got over-enthusiastic and decided I wanted to try and post 3 times a week instead of one. Don’t remember that? That’s because it didn’t fucking work. I tried to do too much and the stress on my mind burnt me out before I got too far at all. When I planned to read 100 books, I failed because I wasn’t being serious about placing restrictions on any other type of media that would get in the way of enjoying reading. Once I got down to the root of the reasons I missed the mark here, I was able to make some clearer 2016 resolutions.

So, without further ado, here they are, my new and improved resolutions for 2016:

  1. Get the rough draft of a book I’ve had laying around edited and acquire an agent. – The biggest, most daunting goal, probably, and the one I spent the most time mapping in Your Best Year. As a self-published author, I’ve had little experience with traditional publishing, but I want to give it a shot for the first book in the rough trilogy I finished last year. The rough draft of the first book has been finished for nearly a good four years now and this has always been something I wanted to ‘try doing eventually’ but never initiated. Game on!
  2. Limit time spent online unless it’s for work purposes – this resolution helps out my “read 100 books” goodreads challenge goal, which I’m giving another go-around this year. I know if I successfully limit my time wasted doing god-knows-what-I-do to eat 500,000 hours a year online, I will read more books in my spare time as a direct result (I’m not a TV person). It will also kill off my biggest distraction to getting writing/editing/you name it done. Your Best Year gave me the excellent idea of giving myself a little chunk of time faffing on twitter, instagram, youtube, wherever as a reward if I spend a bigger chunk of time devoted to working and keeping away from checking my phone.
  3. Show up at office as many days as possible- This one’s exciting mostly because for the first time I have a real office space, separate from the place I sleep, and even five days into the year, it’s really helping. I’m not going to give myself a stringent, impossible-to-follow schedule. Instead I’m going to endeavor to 1- wake up at a reasonable time. I do my best work earlier in the day, and 2- show up for however many hours or tasks I’ve allotted that day. Even if it’s a day I have to be at my other, paying job, I want to get in maybe an hour in the morning.
  4. Get a chapbook of poems together- The original resolution was going to be something more vague like “get back into writing fresh poetry”, but I came out with this one instead. I’ve always wanted to pull a collection of poetry together, and a chapbook is a great place to start. Over the past few months, I’ve been attending poetry open mics and I’ve been honored to meet and hear and be inspired by so many amazing fellow poets, and yet… I still feel blocked when it comes to my own writing. If I resolve to have a chapbook out this year, I will HAVE to write new things.

That’s about everything! Well, there are more small goals, but these are the major writing-related ones at least! If you’ve stuck with me this far, thanks, I wish I had a cookie to give you because you really deserve one. What’ve you got planned for 2016? Do you enjoy planning resolutions out or do you like to take it as it comes? I’d be interested to know!
Until next week!



Filed under editing, musings, publishing, reading, writing