I've reflected a few times over the years on this blog about whether or not I'm a writer. In fact, it was one of the first posts I ever wrote, and I've re-examined the issue periodically. But now, looking back, I realize my focus may have been wrong. It could be that the proper question doesn't ask whether I'm a writer. Instead, I may need to ask myself whether I'm an author. I'm not a hundred percent sure they're the same thing.
I believe lots of people can call themselves writers. Bloggers, people who write poems or short stories or even novels are all writers. Literally the only thing that is required for you to call yourself a writer is that you do it relatively regularly, whether for publication or just because you want to.
But I think maybe an author is a little different from a writer. I think it has to do with a few ways in which the two diverge, such as how seriously you take your craft (or even if you see what you do as a craft), how much time you put into it, and what you do with your writing when it's finished.
Writers write. That's all it takes. But I believe to become an author, I must take it beyond the simple placing of words on a page (or screen). Authors craft their words so that they do and say exactly what they want them to do and say. They closely examine all aspects of their writing, from word choice to sentence structure to character development to story arc. They see what they are doing as both an art and a craft. Truly great writers have a way with words, a facility for creating memorable characters and stories, but a writer who isn't an author won't spend the time and effort to make those words, characters, and stories have the maximum impact on the reader.
Another way in which not all writers are authors has to do with how much of a time commitment one gives to writing that the other doesn't. I believe I was a writer when I wrote my first book. I'm pretty sure I wasn't an author. I wrote a book, but I certainly can't say I crafted it. And that's the difference. I proofread it after I wrote it. But I didn't put in the time and work to make it approach the level of art. I'm not saying it's terrible, but I'm definitely not saying it's good. Actually I am saying that ugly brown thing I first published really was terrible. It wasn't good in any way. The cover was ugly and it just wasn't ready for publication. The process I go through now when I write a book is much more thorough and contemplative than it was then.
The final way in which the two things are different in my view can be illustrated by something a friend told me. He's a bookstore owner who carries a small section of local writers. He told me that I'm one of only two local authors who actually sell any books. He said a lot of folks have this feeling that they'd like to write a book, so they do, and they even go so far as to self-publish it. But then they stop. They don't write more books and they don't publicize the one they did write. I'd say I spend at least as much time on the non-writing half of writing as I do on the actual writing. I maintain my online presence daily. I enter writing contests. I do readings and signings. I go to book events like the WV Book Festival. I travel and meet with bookstore owners trying to get my book into as many stores as possible. I think that, as much as the actual writing, makes me an author.
Let me finish by saying that I didn't write this to exclude anyone or make anyone feel like less. This is purely a personal reflection. It's a reminder to myself that if I want to call myself an author, I need to take my writing more seriously. More seriously than I used to when I first decided I wanted to write books and more seriously today than I did yesterday. Otherwise, I'm just a writer. And I want to be an author.