on life, ambitions, and dreams


Posts Tagged ‘authorship’

Am I really a writer?

Am I really a writer?

My husband shared this picture with me today and it speaks to me too much not to be shared.

This is something that he and I have been struggling with for our entire lives but only embraced last year (it was the secret I was talking about in this post actually). The challenge for me is declaring and ‘owning’ that I am, indeed, a writer. For John, it’s that he is an artist.

The difference between a writer and an author

As someone with a background in the book publishing industry, I hold the titles of “writer” and “author” to high regards. Just because you write does not make you a writer.

And it all comes down to something that my first college writing professor said –

Next time someone you meet at a party introduces themselves as a writer, ask them what they’ve written. If they say, “Oh, nothing you’ve ever read,” then they’re not really a writer.

Last spring I had a conversation with Simon Salt about this topic and he pointed me to a very good blog post he wrote on the topic: Author, Writer, Blogger – it’s all the same write?

Here’s how I define it:

To be an author, you need to write something that is published by someone who is not yourself. This means your writing is in a book, a journal, or in a magazine (though periodicals usually mean you’re a journalist) and it was edited and endorsed by someone else, usually your editor and the publisher. Again, not you.

To be a writer, you should have some level of formal training and be paid or endorsed by someone to write. In other words, the transaction of a payment means that someone else has endorsed that you truly are a writer. Can you be a ‘writer’ if you’ve never been paid? Sure, just like I’m an athlete though I’ve never competed in a competition but I’m not going to carry around business cards that declare that.

The point is this – you are what other people say you are and what other people validate you to be. If you’re a writer, like that quote is inferring, people will start to label you as one.

Is that fair? No, not really. So that means you better self-promote the hell out of your work if you want them to notice your writing and call you a writer. 🙂

Am I really a writer?

I have been writing since I was seven years old, since before I knew what a paragraph was. In spiral bound notebooks, using colored felt-tipped pens at recess. I did not play kickball or foursquare, I wrote. Harriet-the-Spy-style, but instead of writing down what I was seeing, I wrote stories. And I kept them to myself because I was not brave enough to share them with other people.

It wasn’t until I read blogs like Damsels in Success (which is no more), Penelope Trunk’s Blog, and a year later Matt Chevy’s Life Without Pants that I decided I, too, had shit to say and was brave enough to say it.

And it wasn’t until the evening after publishing my first blog post after seeing the positive response on Twitter and reading my first comments in my friend’s kitchen that it hit me – people wanted to read what I had to say.

I almost threw up.

About ten months later I got my first job as a paid writer based on the writing my client found on my blog. She was the first person to call me a “writer” and it wasn’t until December that I started adopting that title to my friends.

Malcom Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours or approximately 10 years to become an “expert” at something. While I still have a lot to learn and every thing I write is hard to produce, it’s safe to say I’ve crossed that mark.

Am I really a writer? I have no idea. But I know what I’m doing.

And, yes, I’m scared to death that people will find out that this is exactly who I want to be.

First Draft Phobia

Superman in Metropolis, Illinois by James Jordan

Writers block is kryptonite for writers, but worse.

See, Clark Kent is lucky, at least the thing that defeats him is physical – if it exists near him, he can get rid of it (or more like someone else can get rid of it for him because he can’t touch it). For writer’s, it’s not like we can physically pick up “writer’s block” and put it in a lead chest. Though, wouldn’t that be terribly convenient?

Writer’s block comes from within, and not in the this-is-your-strength kind of thing but more like this-is-your-phantom-nightmare.

I would say that writer’s block is made up. It’s something that only lives and breathes within the confines of that person’s head.

Whenever I see someone on ask how another deals with writer’s block I want to laugh – because everybody is different.

For me, I don’t get writer’s block, I get afraid. Afraid that what is going to come pouring out of my brain, through my fingers, and into this gorgeous, white screen is going to be shit that even the best editor can’t decipher. And that the ideas I feel that I need to share are unique to me alone and me alone.

It’s a defense mechanism. It’s me shutting up instead of standing my ground and taking an active role in a conversation.

It’s me procrastinating, like I’m doing right now, from writing about something that truly moves and motivates me—something that can have more influence than I could have ever imagined or something that can move mountains, start a revolution, or solve world peace.

Because taking the first step is the scariest one to take.

Photo Credit: James Jordan

Book Publishers are Not Tech Companies

My biggest gripe about people who write about “revolutionizing” the book publishing world is that it’s written by people who don’t know the publishing world. And my biggest frustration with the book publishing world is that the industry is broken.

Publishers are steeped in tradition and stuck in the ways that were started during the golden age of publishing in America, which began in the 1920s. This was when Mr. Alfred A. Knopf was President of Knopf Publishing before it was acquired by Random House in 1960. This was the time when authors were truly wined and dined by the publishers as a way to nurture to their brilliance. Publishers see books as representations of our culture and the intellectual property of the authors. Art.

While this is true, book publishing is also a business and books are commodities that are developed, invested in, promoted, and sold. And for some reason publishers have not caught up with magazine publishers who see what they work on and create as part of a business that should adapt and change with the times. My hypothesis is that it’s apparent that magazine publishers are a form of media because they are dependent on advertising dollars to subsidize their printing; books are supported by book sales.


Chew On This: What is Authorship?

Yesterday morning a friend clued me in to this article from the great Laura Miller at Plagiarism: The next generation: A 17-year-old novelist defends herself in the latest copycat scandal. Are we just too old to understand?

Photo credit: bopuc

[cue Star Trek: The Next Generation theme song]

That’s right, kids, these are the voyages of an ever evolving enterprise known as artistic inspiration, authorship, taking creative license into your own hands, and, well, owning it. I come from the school of thought that every story has been told before and there are no new stories. I think this skepticism was instilled on me from my first creative writing professor (thanks, GVB) and it’s why I had a hard time appreciating “Avatar” as a stand alone-movie and not as a rehashing of “Pocahontas.”

In literature and in life, “you are not a beautiful or unique snowflake.” Everything that you have ever thought of, want to do, and will do has been done before. The difference is in the details―the how and the way you tell your story.

I believe that I have become the person I am in life because of the people I met along the way. If we have had a conversation or shared an idea or worked on a project together, chances are it left an impression on me. I have incorporated your influence into the make up of who I am and who I will become next. I believe that inspiration is everywhere and everyone has the opportunity to be my muse. At our core, we are all “intertextual.”