Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Writers vs. Authors

I'm not much for fru-fru artiste-type commentary. It always seems pretentious and stuck-up, and plain annoying.

But in the business of teaching music, one surprisingly hears good music rarely. I turned some on this morning, and I started bawling, it was just so beautiful. I hadn't noticed I was starving for beautiful sound.

Same thing happened a month or so ago, when I read an Emily Dickinson poem.

How do people live without art in their lives? Man.

As I was wandering around on blogs yesterday, I found a comment in a thread that niggled at me. I closed the window and thought, huh? What's that? And the irritant grew, little bit by little bit, until I knew I had to investigate. By that time, I'd forgotten the poster and the commenter and the blog (sorry).

Anyway, a writer mentioned that s/he hoped s/he would be an author this year. Or an author hoped s/he would be a writer this year. I forget which way it went.

There's a difference??

After yesterday's post, I had to look it up.

According to, the applicable definitions are:

  • 1. a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., esp. as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist.
  • 3. a person who commits his or her thoughts, ideas, etc., to writing: an expert letter writer.
  • 4. (in a piece of writing) the author (used as a circumlocution for “I,” “me,” “my,” etc.): The writer wishes to state….

  • 1. a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc.; the composer of a literary work, as distinguished from a compiler, translator, editor, or copyist.
  • 3. the maker of anything; creator; originator: the author of a new tax plan.
  • 5. to write; be the author of: He authored a history of the Civil War.

Huh. So if you read between the lines and look closely, "writer" seems to have a more professional bent, "as an occupation or profession," while author makes no such mention. A "writer" writes his thoughts and ideas down, whereas an "author" "creates" and "originates." An "author" seems to have a more creative bent, in fact, the first definition of an author seems to imply that "author" mostly applies to fiction, whereas "writer" applies to anything, although the third definition of "author" seems to say the same thing.

I researched the Oxford online dictionary (Compact version online ... too compact for my taste), and Oxford seems to agree with the assessment above: writers make it a profession, and an author "originates an idea."

Well, I like making money, so I think that makes me a writer. I think.

Then I turned to Merriam-Webster and it all became clear:

author: 1a: one that originates or creates b: capitalized: GOD (italics mine)
2: the writer of a literary work (as a book)
writer: one that writes: as a: AUTHOR

ROFLMAO ... so an author is God, and a writer just writes.

Now I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Do I want to make money, or play God?

9 bonus scribbles:

The Insect 1/03/2007 11:24:00 AM  

Thanks for dropping in on the Bulletin and leaving me my first comment! I hadn't expected anyone to read it so soon. As for the writer vs. author debate ... I'd say author is specifically for books, whereas writer is more difficult. Furthermore, author is more of a career-oriented term, wheras writer is a calling, one which applies to any who are drawn to it. (And who write regularly, and for pleasure.)

Erik Ivan James 1/03/2007 12:45:00 PM  

Me? I like the making lots of money idea.

Good post, Spyscribbler.

Avery DeBow 1/03/2007 06:03:00 PM  

I've been told by "Them" (and one should always listen to "Them") that an author is a writer, but a writer cannot be an author until published. Some fraternity house deliniation between the big fishies and the little fishies, I suppose.

I wanna be God when I grow up.

spyscribbler 1/03/2007 06:24:00 PM  

Ah! I see! I had a feeling it was something like that, that's why it niggled me.

Kate S 1/03/2007 07:02:00 PM  

Hmm... I want to make enough money writing that I don't have to work the day job anymore, but if I'm God, I don't have to worry about any of that...

I can go either way. :)

spyscribbler 1/03/2007 07:09:00 PM  

This is a very good point, Kate!

Zoe Winters 1/03/2007 09:54:00 PM  

I've always thought that a 'writer' was anyone who writes and an 'author' is someone who is published. That seems to be the connotation.

I've always just liked 'writer' and will probably continue to call myself that after I'm published. Although on my blog it says: "About the Author" but that's only because "About the Writer" just sounds plain weird. So I went with convention despite my personal quirk.

Jude Hardin 1/04/2007 08:42:00 AM  

Hey Spy,

I think it was my comment over on Erica's blog that niggled you. :)

I consider myself a writer now, but I won't call myself an author until I'm published by a legit press.

That's the connotation I was after.

spyscribbler 1/04/2007 10:16:00 AM  

So you're the one!

Didn't I just read you finished a manuscript last night? Well, then. Congratulations, and best of luck on becoming an author!