Writer vs Author

Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.

-Colette, writer (1873-1954)

Appropriated from "Bitter Little Words" on Dieselpunk.

Appropriated from “Bitter Little Words” on Dieselpunk.

“A writer is someone who writes.” This tautology was popularized by Pat Schneider who developed the Amherst Writers and Artists method. And like most self-evident tautologies, it tells us very little. If I’m engaged in hack or propaganda writing, am I hack writer or propagandist by definition? Do I stop being a writer if I stop writing? How long between when I stop writing and when I stop being a writer? If I engage in automatic writing does that make me a psychic, or worse, a surrealist?

Clearly, this vague self-referential mantra is not very useful aside from its motivational function. As for being an author, that used to be cut and dried. When you finished a piece of writing, you were its author. Its creator. And if you published something, either through a publisher or in a magazine, you were a published author. The line got blurred with self-publishing, DIY zines, and the like. Its become almost meaningless with the internet and blogs, websites, and facebook pages.

For me, Colette’s quote describes an editor, not an author. I’ve never been a good editor of my own work, and I’ve always had to rely on others to critique my writing so that I could effectively rewrite. A good editor—hired or not—is priceless.

Hence my byline as a writer and author.