Michelle Wittle on Being a Writer verses an Author

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

When I hear the word, “writer” I think of a man in a brown hat with the word “press” in the brim of the hat. He normally has a white shirt with a brown tie. He definitely wears penny loafers and carries a steno pad and a pen. He is usually the one chasing a story.

However, when I hear the word “author” I think of a very Hemingway type of man. He has the white hair and beard. He wears a plaid jacket with velvet elbow patches and smokes from a pipe. His voice is soft and he has a British accent. He sits in his study surrounded by first editions of many fine pieces of literature. At his desk he has his typewriter and the blank pages of his new manuscript.

Although there are two distinct visions associated with each word, both of the words mean the same thing. Don’t they?

Well, not really. I actually looked up the definitions to the word “author” and “writer” in the American Heritage College Dictionary. The word “author” is defined as someone who is the original creator of a piece of literature. While the word “write” is defined as a person who writes for a living. Both definitions agree that an author and a writer have to do with writing, but there is a difference between the two.

But here is the bigger problem. Which one do I want to be?

Do I want to be the writer who just writes what they need to in order to make a living? Or do I want to be the person who creates an original piece of literature? Can I have it all?

If I am being honest, I know it is impossible to have it all. You can write a well received book and you can make money from it. However, I don’t think you can go into the writing thinking you will write the most awesome piece of literature and people will pay you lots of money for it. I don’t want to write just anything to make money either. I want my name to be on pieces of work I am proud of and not pieces of work I wrote to eat that week.

It’s funny because while I was growing up, when people asked about my career aspirations, I told them I wanted to be a writer. But I don’t want to be that guy with the “press” hat running after a story. I want to be the guy with the cool library and the typewriter.

With that realization, I know now I have to give up a few things. I won’t be able to maintain myself as a freelance writer because my heart won’t fully be invested in it. I was once told that my sincerity and passion comes through in my pieces. If I become a writer, I know I will lose that part of me. But understanding myself as an author gives me a certain amount of freedom. I can write when and how I like. I don’t have to rush a piece because of a deadline. I can let my work breathe. My work will not consume me.

Although most people hate labels, I think it is imperative to define one’s self in the writing field. If you know what you want out of your writing and you know why you are writing, it will be easier to write. Your purpose will always be in your head and it will give you comfort in a community with such little guarantees.

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2 thoughts on “Michelle Wittle on Being a Writer verses an Author

  1. Good post Michelle. I can write one dang good article, but to make money as a “writer” you have to be willing to take on jobs like the cover piece for Fence Manufacturers Journal. I’ve always figured if you’re going to hate what you do you might as well do it in a big company for big bucks.

  2. It’s a good question for we who use words (as opposed to paint, or our vocal chords, or pizza dough) to express. A writer is someone who simply can’t really get it all out unless she’s got Qwerty and all the others at her fingertips, I think. It’s her medium, and it’s what she always comes back to. That’s what writing is to me, that and that’s all, actually. I don’t glean my paycheck from it and I’m not a joiner, so it just is. I like myself better, or rather, I understand myself better when I write. I think that’s really why I continue to do it.

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