Back in July, I wrote a post titled Writer vs Author. In that post, I considered the difference between a writer and an author, and questioned how it’s possible to move from one state (writer) to the other (author). If you don’t want to go back and read the original post, let me give you the cliff-notes: I had no idea. I was really just working through my thoughts in an effort to come to some kind of conclusion and hoping that someone would comment with the Real, True, and Undeniable Answer.
While I did get lots of comments, they didn’t necessarily help.
- Emerald agreed with me when I said: You’re an author when you feel like you’re an author, and not one moment before.
- Leanne said: A writer is an author when other people voluntarily recognize him or her as such.
- Merilee said: I qualified as an author when I got paid for my first story.
- But Merilee also said: To maintain my author tag, I need to keep writing.
- Jody said: I guess my honest opinion would be that you are an ‘author’ when other people consider you to be one.
The thing is… I agreed with everyone. The definition of an author was still out of reach. But making that distinction between writer and author was still important to me. And, judging by the number of people every week who find my blog with the search term “writer vs author”, it’s important to other people as well.
Fortunately for me, my time at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival has given me the answer. Fortunately for you, I’m prepared to share my epiphany.
In thinking back on the BWF, the one thing that stuck in my head was that every presenter referred to us, the hopeful writers-in-attendance, as Artists. Sometimes jokingly (I know you artist-types need plenty of coffee), sometimes seriously (As artists, it’s your job to connect with your readers) and sometimes something in between (Trust me, even though you’re artists, you’ll still need to understand something about business and contracts).
It didn’t really register at the time, but a few days later, it hit me.
An artist is “someone who creates art”. Literature is art. Fiction is art. Poetry is art. Even some non-fiction is art.
An author is not just a writer, an author is an artist.
With that in mind, the difference between Writer and Author just got easier to define.
Writer: 1. One who writes. 2. One whose occupation involves writing, such as a journalist or author.
Author: 1. The composer of a work of literature. 2. A writer who creates art in the form of poetry or prose. 3. The creator of word-based art.*
(You will note that although all authors are writers, not all writers are authors.)
So, how do you know if you’ve progressed from Writer to Author? Simple. Are you an Artist?
To make that question easier to answer, let’s look at a semi-official definition of an Artist in Australia.
- Creates works of art, AND
- Thinks of him/herself as an artist and behaves accordingly (ie. in a professional manner), AND
- Is recognised as an artist by his/her peers and/or the general public.
So, an Author:
- Creates finished written works. (Length is irrelevant — novels and haiku both count – but the keyword is finished. If you’ve got 37 different first paragraphs, you haven’t got a “work of art”. You’ve just got a lot of ideas and not a lot of stick-to-it-iveness), AND
- Thinks of him/herself as a professional writer and acts accordingly, AND
- Is recognised as an author by other professional writers, authors, and/or industry specialists. This recognition can come in many ways, including (but not limited to) having your work published (trad pub, magazine, etc), good sales of self-published work, reviews on websites, short-listed in competitions, positive feedback from industry insiders, etc.
* Note 1: This definition of an author is from my head, and probably shouldn’t be quoted anywhere else.
** Note 2: Apparently the word ‘author’ is simply a term used in copyright law to refer to the creator of the work. This definition is way less mystical and romantic than my definition, so I vote we completely disregard it.
What do you think of this definition? Do you agree? Disagree? Does this change your mind/reaffirm your own thoughts?