Twice this week people have asked me what I do for a living. That’s a question I always find interesting, and perhaps one of these days we’ll get around to the whole Mommy Wars discussion on this blog. But today I want to talk about how I tend to answer, which I also find interesting and I hope you will as well.
My book Evenfall has been out for over a year now. I love the story, love the cover, and am pretty happy with how it has been received. I recognize how lucky I am to have had a book in bookstores when publishing is going through such a hair-rending time. And yet, when people ask what I do, do I say “Oh, thank you for asking, I’m an author?”
I do not.
My usual response is “Gah, babble babble babble, I’m a writer.” Sometimes they’ll ask what I write, in which case I reel off a list of my publishing creds, tacking Evenfall at the end. Other times (like this past week) I’m lucky enough to have my youngest with me, who immediately breaks into my babbling with “She’s an author. She’s been on television and she has a book named Evenfall and in it the dog (reveals entire ending of book).” This may not help me with sales, but it is gratifying to my ego.
So why does a seven-year-old have no problem saying the A word when I do? I think the answer is in the definition. At my son’s age, writer and author are interchangeable. But I’ve been a writer so much longer than an author I can spot the difference.
Writer, to me, is an action word. It says dig in and get your hands dirty (or as dirty as you get using a keyboard). It means to take notes, to research, to string words together and then take them apart, to do this again and again until they are as polished and smooth as possible. It’s craftsmanship, denim and work boots and a soft, comfortable t-shirt.
Author is static. It’s a lovely word, too, but it says “look what I’ve done” not “look what I’m doing.” It’s dress up, don’t touch me, special occasion wear, high heels and sequins and maybe some Spanx. Author has its place, but it’s not for every day.
Despite my occasional attempts to appear otherwise, I’m strictly a t-shirt and blue jeans girl, and that’s fine. I’m more comfortable with a notebook and computer to hide behind. Maybe someday, when I have other books out there, the sparkly bits will incorporate themselves into my working wardrobe a bit more and the line between writer and author won’t be so stark. But for now, I’m still getting my hands dirty.
How do you define the words writer and author?