Tag Archives: poetry

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?

Leave a comment

Filed under musings, publishing, writing

it is a long, whistling walk in the corridors of time

those rose-tinted, slow motion memories
you can’t retrieve (there is a sadness
to the past, perhaps, because the you of
fifty years back, or even a day ago,
is more alive than the you doing the dreaming,
dying daily.

this is what I propose, you misty-eyed, fading
dreamer:
get up.
open to the soul of your dying.

hold nothing back.

Leave a comment

Filed under my poetry, poetry

here are the photos where you smiled

your freshly cut hair fluffed up
around your face, held to your magnetic
pull like the mechanics of static cling.

here is where my memory gets faulty,
dancing around the pearl-dotted grass
beneath trees, refusing, in its soft way—
to acknowledge a less rosy retrospection.

here is where the night closes in.
I remember this best because I was afraid.
there are few pictures of this time, and a
sadistic part of me wishes I hadn’t hidden
myself away.

here is where the moon stretches over the tress, and
awakes something in my heart that yearns without knowing
why.

here is where the story ends, as all good stories do (and like all
good stories, I suppose it goes on in the mind of the listener for an uncertain
infinity, taking up as much blooded space
as the heart needs.)

Leave a comment

Filed under my poetry

dusk, and how it speaks

the dull setting of peace drives bones to
outer limits, drives mind to tired
port.
eyes snap open, color flooding back
to observe the westering sun.
(do we grow old, eyes closing like
withered leaves in their time of dying
as we sleep, falling limply to a swollen
ground?)

I am no one’s great love, nor have
my hands built castles,
nor has my face taken them down.
I am not the long-winded muse
speaking softly and cruelly into the poet’s
ear; I am not the wind in the east,
shifting to knock against the madman’s door,
the shadow rising from the alcoholic’s
wall.

I am only the drifting,
one solitary flurry-flake, moving at a wanderer’s pace,
across the land, to be extinguished
upon touch.

Leave a comment

Filed under my poetry

journals, diaries, and poetry, oh my!

I’ve always been a little obsessed with handwriting journal/diary hybrids, books where I’d talk about my day and daily dramas and then suddenly launch into discussion of some bigger, deeper theme out of nowhere. I started when I was around 11 or 12 and continued (albeit very intermittently) into my twenties.

I’m a very all or nothing type of person- I’m either doing something 110% or I’m not doing it at all. (so if I ever miss posting on this blog, expect not to hear from me for another year. JUST KIDDING…I think). Journals were no exception to this rule. I wanted my entries to be daily, though of course they never were. All my old journals are full of maybe 3-7 day periods where I’d write daily and then a silence that could last days, weeks, or even months before resuming again. Sometimes I’d even try to summarize everything that happened for these silent gaps in the next entry, usually precluded by a “It’s been FOREVER!!” (It’s at the very least, amusing stuff, especially the teen journals. Ah, the teen journals.)

IMG_3518[1]

                 proof of the damage!

As I went through college and beyond, the gaps between my journaling increased. I have years that are not recorded at all, where others I’ll experience a burst of activity and then drop off the face of the earth again. I also fell in and out of love with journaling. Sometimes I was really enthused about it, while others I felt it only served to make me realize how uninteresting my life was. I also noticed that as I got older and life obviously became more complex as a result, I became less honest in my journals, which was upsetting to me. Journals were supposed to be a place I could come and be completely honest with myself, not to skip around anything I didn’t want to face head on in order to make better, more nostalgic reading for myself when I came back to them later.

Last year, one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to write some in a journal every day, a sort of final challenge to see if I could do it. For a while (nearly 3 months) it went well, and I managed to get something down every day, even enjoyed it the majority of the time. But one thing I’d failed to account for was that it did take time. I liked to handwrite all my journals and my insistence on doing it every day was taking away from the success of another one of my goals: to write poetry on a regular basis. I write poetry in the same way I write journals, by hand, and a lot of the time when I was done with my journaling, especially if the entry had been emotional or particularly deep or searching, I found my well all dried up when it came to poetry. Not only that, but some of the entries in my journals became downright poetic when I really got going on something I couldn’t really articulate.

It wasn’t the first time I’d noticed this strange melding. In fact, back in 2012 I wrote an entry in which I wondered if poetry and keeping a ‘diary’ weren’t so different as I’d first assumed in terms of purpose. Being that I valued poetry more, I started to wonder if maybe I should make poetry my diary of sorts, and write daily in some poetry book rather than a journal.

From September 10th, 2012:

Poetry is like pouring out feelings you can’t even put into words, and that’s what I like having a diary to be about too, but I don’t know…if someone were to read a diary, they might be hurt or troubled by what they find- but with poetry…poetry is always under the guise of art. The words are not straightforward, so even if you write something in the heat of hateful feelings, it might be construed differently by the very person it’s about. It might be enjoyed by them, and then, assuming the poem is for poetry’s sake as well, long after your angry feelings pass, you can still love the poem, unlike how you’d be ashamed of an angry journal entry. Because poetry is beautiful, and transcends something base inside, so that sometimes in the act of writing it we come to reconcile our emotions and achieve insight into the deepest reaches of ourselves. Poetry can be therapeutic indeed.

Of course every poem I write is not so personal as a diary entry, and every diary entry I wrote was certainly not poetic (HA) but I had a point. The similarities were there, and if I had to pick one to spend time on, I wanted it to be poetry. (I’d also like to note I think it’s funny how concerned I was over people reading my journals…as far as I can tell, there wasn’t anything catastrophic in there…though I suppose I understand my point xD)

When I journaled, I felt like a lot of what I wrote as boring, and I always felt like I missed writing about the real ‘good stuff’. With poetry, the only things you take from life are the ones that strike you in some way, the moments that seem to glow with a special sort of luminescence. So while my poetry will never tell me what I ate yesterday morning or what test I passed or what inside joke I created, it will take me back to the memories that matter most upon reading, memories  only I can fully unlock. And as a bonus, it will hopefully be something completely new and different to each reader who sees it, as any good piece of art is.

Do I still journal? Occasionally, but only when the spirit moves me. Poetry has by and large taken the front seat in my handwritten life ;).

I hope you’re all well and I’ll see you next week!

{C}

Leave a comment

Filed under musings, writing

Writer’s Block- does it really exist?

Almost two years ago, I printed out this pile of exactly one hundred poems I’d typed up . The poems included were written over the span of the past three years (so, since 2010 or so) but the overwhelming majority of them were actually written within the 2012-2013 year. ONE YEAR.

june 1 2013 012

A highly attractive pile of paper!

Flash forward to present day and these poems have been read over and sorted, once, twice, five times, and there’s a hefty pile I consider Not Exactly Quality. There’s another, slightly larger pile that I considered workable/submittable, and lately I’ve finally been getting around to actually submitting them places. Of course, now that I’m actually submitting, I find the ‘acceptable’ pile has shrunk yet again, and the ‘I really love this, it needs to get out there’ pile is even smaller.

IMG_3469

Several slightly less attractive piles                         of paper!

Why, you may ask, am I showing you piles of paper? What’s my point with all this? Why, I’m so glad you asked! WRITER’S BLOCK is my point.

For nearly two full years after college ended (when I was no longer being prompted or assigned poetry) I hadn’t written a thing due to writer’s block. Nothing I thought of seemed good enough, and when I had a good idea I couldn’t find the right words. Eventually the fear of that blank page and of the desecration of the Ideal Poem I held on a pedestal in my head led to an extreme creative drought. Writer’s Block got me, and it got me good.

Then, something miraculous happened, and that something is this: I sat my ass down in a chair, took a journal and started writing poetry. I wrote for fifteen minutes, and I surprised myself. I didn’t completely hate what I wrote. The next day I wrote for thirty, and the going was a lot harder. Then I scrapped the time idea and set myself page goals, trying to write a full page, front and back, in my poetry journal every day. I told myself I was not going to go back over anything I wrote there for a while, that I wouldn’t edit or even reread anything- anything went, single lines that popped into my head as I was going, a scrap of this, a scrap of that, disjointed stanzas, you name it. As long as I fulfilled my page quota and had one new page of raw material every day, I was playing by the rules. AND IT WORKED. So simple, yet somehow it had taken me years. And it wasn’t the first time I’d gone through this cycle; I didn’t even have ignorance to fall back on. I started feeling so much regret over the time I’d wasted not writing any poetry. If I wrote 100 rough poems in a year, how many could I have had in the space of 3 years? If I had 25 I was in love with, how many would I have to love in 3 years?? Obviously I’ll never let this happen again, I thought. But I did, again and again. The only thing I can say for myself is the dry spells weren’t quite as long.

There are those who say writer’s block doesn’t exist, that all you need is hard work and dedication to write every day and you’ll never experience it again. Then there are those who say NAY, that fabled beast is real and it will eat you alive! Who’s right? From my own experience, I’ve personally come to believe that the truth is a bit of both extremes, as is often the case. Writer’s block does indeed exist: just as being super inspired and having the words flow out of you like no one’s business is a real and euphoric experience, having everything move at a dead crawl and hardly being able to string a sentence together, feeling ‘blocked’ in other words, is equally real. No amount of schedule and dedication has managed to make it go away and never come back. I’ll be in the middle of a novel and suddenly I’m having an astronomically difficult time hitting my quota. I’ll sometimes spend nearly the whole day doing what is normally only a few hours’ work.

BUT. On the occasions I did triumph and wrote through the block, I found that it usually only lasted about a week tops, and at the end of the day, I felt REALLY good that I’d got the words out there, even if they were probably shit. Contrast that with the months (or years!) of feeling blocked that come from backing down and letting the fear build every day, each day making that wall in my head a little higher, and there’s a clear winner in the field of strategy ;).

I don’t think there’s any doubt as to whether writer’s block exists, I think the real question is whether we’ll let it get us, whether we will let it win and force us into a dry spell, or keep writing through it. I’ve let it win SO many times, more times honestly than I’ve been the victor. But I’m trying not to let that happen anymore. I think it’s likely, looking over the pattern of the past, that I will- but I’m aiming to prove myself wrong.

“writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”

– Charles Bukowski (The Last Night of the Earth Poems)

“Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch.”

-Lili St. Crow

{Hope you’re well and see you next week!}

~ C

2 Comments

Filed under musings, writing