I am a writer, but I’d like to be an author
I teach College English as my profession. I have written a thesis and a dissertation. That counts, right? So I’m automatically a writer, right? Or am I an author? Every semester, at least one of my students asks me if I am an author.
My answer is always the same: “I am a writer, but I’d like to be an author.”
This prompts the following question, “What’s the difference, sir?”
Here is where it is a little subjective. Different dictionaries define these words in a variety of ways. However, there is some overlapping agreement
A writer is someone who engages in the writing process. Basically, a writer writes. That sounds about right, but an author does that too.
Now, Merriam Webster defines an author as, “the writer of a literary work” or “one who creates or originates something.”
Taking these two together, I have come up with a few conclusions because the difference between a writer and an author lies in what is implied by the difference between their definitions:
- A writer does not originate or create new ideas;
- A writer writes non-literary works;
- An author writes pieces that have literary value (this does not mean it has to be fiction!).
Therefore, just about everyone is a writer. We write assignments for school, we write essays for college-entry applications, and we write email after email for work.
Does that mean that as long as I write an original work that has literary value, whatever that means, I will be become an author?
According to the dictionary definition, probably. However, other definitions exist, mainly coming from reputable authors on Masterclass.com and on their own websites. While much of their discussion of the differences agrees with the dictionary definitions, they add one more criteria for becoming an author:
To authors, such as Dean Wesley Smith, once you publish an original work, you become an author. This additional criteria makes the distinction a bit more objective, which is very helpful.
Putting this in context, then, becoming an author was much harder before self-publishing became easier. Still, Edgar Allan Poe self-published his first book, Tamerlane and other Poems almost 100 year ago, and so did Nathaniel Hawthorne with his first book.
With so many self-publishing options, such as Kindle Direct Publishing, Reedsy, Lulu, IngramSpark, and Draft2Digital, it is easier than ever to checkoff the “being published” criteria to become an author.
Even so, I would argue that online publishing, such as blogs and Medium articles, should count towards making that transition from writer to author. In both blogs and sites like Medium, writers are creating original ideas, idea presentation, and e-zines. These sites are just the logical evolution of how to distribute products of the written word. Basically, new age publishing.
In that case, maybe, I am not just a writer, but already an author.
Maybe, I have just discriminated against myself because of the biases of my own discipline. If I can transition from being a write to an author, there is nothing stopping you!
*Now, if you liked my writing style, please let me know because my next goal is to be an author who people find interesting.