Is there a difference between the ‘writer’ and the ‘author’?

It used to be that when someone new asked me, ‘So, what do you do?’ there was a panic switch in my brain that flipped back and forth for a split second before I picked one of my two usual answers:

I write books.

See what I did? I dodged my internal struggle between which term to use – writer or author. But, I am both, right? When the conversation turns into, ‘Oh, have you written something I might know?’ I resist the urge to ask them, ‘I have no idea, can you read?’ Instead, I explain that I write mostly Fantasy, though I write in several genres really. And if they ask who I’m published with, I answer, ‘I’m self-published.’ *holds breath* Then I have to watch their face contort in and out of odd expressions as they go blank listening to the book titles I list off at their request, and the convo I was equal parts loathing but excited for, quickly dissipates into a lackluster attempt for one of us to find something more interesting to do; anything other than staring at each other.

Usually a random stranger doesn’t know who I am. I’m okay with that being slightly introverted myself, because it means I can go to Target with my unwashed hair in a bun, no makeup on, and a tank top that shows my bra straps, while dragging along my two reluctant children behind me without much judgement.

But I’ve found that the conversation goes a bit differently when I use the word ‘author’ right upfront and worry about the self-publishing part later. Often times, it goes more like this:

Unsuspecting Stranger: So, what do you do?

Me: Oh, I’m a published author. *big smile*

Them: Really? That’s cool! What’s the name of your book?

Me: Well, I have three series, adding up to about ten books! (Lists off my series titles)

Them: Wow. What genre are they?

Me: Mostly Fantasy, but there’s YA, Adult Dystopian, Science Fiction, Action and Adventure, some Romance, a little Paranormal and Horror, etc…something for everyone, really. *winks*

Them: Interesting, where can I find them?

Me: On your Kindle, Nook, iPad or smart phone, where the first books of my first two series are free. The prints can be ordered off of Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Oh, and there’s the audiobooks on Audible, too!

Them: Thanks! I’ll have to check them out. *big smile*

Me: Please do! *really big smile*

Obviously, the conversation above has about one hundred possible variations, but you get the gist – for some reason, people are more interested to engage in a conversation about what I do, when I say I’m an author, not just a writer. And if I mention I am published, bonus points. But if I start the conversation off with the fact that I do it myself, they lose interest quickly.

But, why? An author IS a writer. A published author ALSO is a writer. So a writer can be all of those things. And being self-published means I do most of that work myself. It doesn’t change the fact that I still write books and they are still published in reputable places. But there can be a bit of a divide between the terms in the literary world, none the less. Check out the definitions below of each title:

WriterdefinitionAuthordefinitionPublisherdefinition

Thank you Dictionary.com for the above. For me, I personally think that the words ‘writer’ and ‘author’ are basically the same thing. Of course, publishers are not all writers, but us Indie Authors typically are also publishers. I think for a lot of people we meet along the way, this can be confusing, especially if we have that ‘I haven’t slept well in three months because I’m working on a book, and I missed my coffee this am, so don’t speak to me’ kind of demeanor while out and about. I can count on one hand the number of people who have wanted to genuinely know more about being self-published, and less about the big publishing name I’m not behind. So, to be fair, they are out there. 😉

Perhaps, the issue is not which term we use, but how we explain it. Here’s my opinion: everyone who has ever written anything of their own is a writer in a sense, an author is typically a writer who not only writes but has their work out for the public to see or buy, be that in magazines, blogs, books, etc… There’s going to be exceptions to this, of course. And a publisher is someone who sells books.

So, what are Indies supposed to say when asked what we do for a living?

Whatever we want, that’s what. 

Just kidding. Kinda. If only that would work every time. *wink* I think the easiest answer to this is to practice on your own the best 5-10 second answer you can give with a genuine smile on your face, leaving yourself willfully and eagerly open to further discussion. The term ‘writer’ might sound too broad to be interesting, the term ‘author’ may sound a bit more professional but also intimidating, and the term ‘self-published’ might scare people away, most likely because they don’t understand what it means. But if you learn which term best suits you, and make yourself and your work sound interesting right off the bat, it can turn a stranger into a reader. And that’s what makes the writer and the reader happy in the end, right?

Pulling the Introvert out of a Writer

I think writers all need a bit of isolation to finish a project. Or at least to finish a project worth reading. I’ve met many authors who are borderline introverts, and even though I wouldn’t consider myself one, I find it easy to slip into my own little bubble at times. Surely we all do this – writer or not – when our personal lives get busy, or work, family and children demand our constant attention. It’s called Life. We all have one, even writers.

The problem I’m having lately is that I can create an entire fantasy world on my computer, and develop characters and roller coaster plot lines, but I can’t get my four-year old to pick up his toys, or my nine-year old to finish reading the same book she’s had in her room for three weeks now. Parenting is tough, being a writer with children (especially homeschooled children) is not only hard but it’s exhausting! And my writing is suffering. There simply aren’t enough pieces of me to keep the ball rolling smoothly without help from my family and organization from myself. Writing from the seat of my pants whenever I feel like it doesn’t work anymore. I do have a schedule, and I try my best to follow it but children aren’t predictable! Being bogged down with work and home responsibilities has pulled me into my own shell and I’ve become, shockingly to me, an introvert! Weeks have passed since I’ve spoken to or seen some of my best friends, and the other day, I sat down and tried to think of when I had all of my girlfriends over for the evening. I couldn’t remember. There was a black spot in my brain where entertainment and socializing used to be. There might be cobwebs in there. It’s way dark too, and the black-out curtains definitely need to go.

So my point of this mini-rant is for those of you that write – don’t forget to live. In fact, DO live and live well, because without life propelling us along and holding our hand through the ups and downs, our stories have no substance. A true introvert is not experiencing life in color – but black and white, losing the details along the way. The creative streams in our brains will run dry and then all the time we’ve spent pushing life aside will come flooding back in and we’ll realize our children have grown and our friends get together often – to talk about us. Who we used to be. Who we wanted to be. Not the empty shell we’ve created by allowing so much time to pass before running through life with joy – like a naked person in the rain.

If you don’t think running through the rain naked is freeing, perhaps you should try it. Just be warned, I take no responsibility for your actions and no, I will not bail you out of jail. If you’d rather keep your clothes on and stay dry – then start with baby steps, and schedule your writing time this week, ALSO scheduling in at least one meeting with a friend and two other phone calls to people who are important to you. Don’t forget to hug your kids, take them to the park even though the wood chips ALWAYS get stuck in their socks, cave and grab them an ice cream at the end of the week, read them a book or watch one of their favorite movies together. Maybe I’m being nostalgic because my ‘baby’ is turning ten years old next month, I don’t know. But I want to remember her being nine, right this moment.

So while she works on math practice sheets and grumbles about how word problems ‘suck’, I’ll crank out what I can on my WIP, and then explain to her again, that math word problems matter when you are an adult. They become Life Problems. See the cycle we are a part of? Everything comes back to us, if only we let ourselves see it.

 

Happy Thursday, Everyone!

Wednesday Writing Tip

Ever get stuck on your current WIP and need help moving the plot forward? How about naming a new character with something unique that flows off the tongue nicely? Or what about how you plan on torturing your bad guy so that readers love to hate him/her? You need a writing buddy. Well, you don’t ‘need’ one, but they don’t hurt. I’m not saying go out there and befriend all the writers you can – though that surely won’t hurt you – but if you click with even just ONE writing buddy, it’s awesome to have that person to bounce ideas around with.

I have several writer friends who I could contact and ask ridiculous questions that I know only they can relate to, and it saves me from having to stress all on my own. Sometimes just having another person act as your sounding board helps you figure out what you need so you can move on. A lot of writers, especially Indie Authors such as myself, can be true introverts. Making friends online is easier than making friends in person. So reach out to a writer friend you relate to and do some bonding. When you join each other online for a chat with your coffee mug in one hand and the computer mouse in the other, surely only goodness can come out of it. Make a writer friend today. I double-dog dare ya.

 

Happy Bonding!