Do You Call Yourself a Writer or an Author?

by Jami Gold on January 24, 2012

in Writing Stuff

Close-up of a man's suit

Recently, the Awesome-Dipped-in-Glitter (TM) Kristen Lamb pointed out that “aspiring is for pansies.”  We are not aspiring writers.

Aspiring: to have a plan, desire, or hope for something.

Writer: a person who writes.

If we put those together, that means an aspiring writer is a person who plans, desires, or hopes to write, but doesn’t actually write.

We know those types.  The neighbors who—when we tell them we’re writing a book—say, “Oh yeah, I’d like to write a book someday.”

Aspiring writers say they want to write, but they never actually do it.  They never carve time into their life to sit down and write.  They’re full of talk and no action.

Writers—real writers, those who can ditch the “aspiring” label—are the ones who make the time to plant their butt in a chair and write.  That’s it.  That’s all we have to do to call ourselves writers.

That’s it?

Yep.  That means we’ve already accomplished more than those who just talk about writing.  The act of writing gives us the authority to call ourselves a writer.

What about “aspiring author”?

That gets a bit trickier, as “author” comes with baggage.  According to the dictionary, “author” means a person who writes a completed work or is the creator of something.

Seems simple enough.  I’ve published over 150 blog posts.  Does that mean I can call myself an author?  I’ve completed several stories, does that count?

It used to be that the publishing industry (i.e., agents and editors) thought of “writers” as unpublished and “authors” as published.  I’m sure there are many who still have that attitude.  However, the ease of self-publishing makes that a useless distinction.

Why should Joe Schmo, who couldn’t tell the difference between a colon and a semicolon if his life depended on it, be called an author just because he self-published some incoherent crap on Amazon?  (My apologies if any of my readers are named Joe Schmo.  This is not directed at you.  I promise.  *smile*)

Why shouldn’t I, who could have self-published two years ago but decided to improve my craft before deciding on my path, not be called an author just because I value my work and my readers too much to subject them to crap-status?

That’s not a whine, by the way.  I don’t really care about labels.  I call myself a writer on this blog all the time because that’s what I do.  I write.

My point is that everyone interprets “author” differently.  Dean Wesley Smith recently wrote a blog post stating that authors focus on the past (what they’ve completed) and writers focus on the present and future (what they’re writing or will write).  So he calls himself a writer despite publishing over 100 stories.

I call myself “Paranormal Author” in the title of my blog even though I’m not published in book form yet.  No one has ever called me on it, but maybe they’re all snickering behind my back, thinking I’m a wanna-be or a poseur.

So why do I do it?  Why do I invite potential ridicule by using a word that has so much baggage?  Because to me, “author” implies an attitude of a career rather than a hobby.  Yet I don’t call myself an aspiring author either.

My family is geeky enough that we frequently quote Yoda from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: “Do or do not. There is no try.”  I’m not an aspiring author because I’m not trying.  I have more than just a plan or a hope to be published someday.  I’m doing, I’m working, and I will reach that goal.

When we want a promotion in our day jobs, we’re told to dress for the position we want, not for the position we currently have. People see us and judge us based on how we present ourselves. Therefore, I decided that if I want to be seen as an author, I should act like one.  (Or as Kristen Lamb says in her follow-up post to the one above: “Act like a professional and others will treat us like a professional.”)

Self-doubt causes me to question my decision all the time.  My choice is not for everyone.  Some still cling to that “aspiring writer” label.  Some, like Dean Wesley Smith, embrace the “writer” title.  Some will wait until someone else crowns them with the “author” designation.

But I want people’s first impression of me to be that I’m a professional writer and take my work seriously, so I claim the title of “author” in the header of my website.  I am a writer because I write, but “author” embodies my goals, my actions, and my attitude toward writing.  So I swallow the self-doubt that plagues most of us writers and strive to live up to the word “author.”

Do you use the “aspiring” label, and if so why?  Do you call yourself a writer or an author (or both, like I do)?  What do those words mean to you?  Do you think the old baggage or new self-publishing options make “author” a meaningless word?  Do you think it’s a mistake for me to call myself an author before I have a book published?

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104 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Jeremy Richard May 2, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Impressive write!

I’m a new author myself, and I really enjoyed this topic “author and a Writer” whenever you do make that book, I will buy!!

May God Bless you Jami Gold 🙂

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