Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

This Is The Way It Must Be Done!

I’m an author.

I’m published, too.

Oh! For those who don’t know, “writer” Must be applied to those who have written but not yet published. If you read the first two sentences of this post again, you’ll notice that I used “author”, which, according to the received wisdom of those who tell us, with fervor, what we Must do, should have been “writer”. If I’d used writer, then I could have Properly written the third sentence:

I’m a writer.

I’m published, too.

So, I’m also an author.

Let’s see… The etymology of “author” says: “one who causes to grow” and “one who sets forth written statements”.

O.K., “sets forth” could be construed to be publishing, but only if you need  it to mean that so you can segregate “writers” and “authors”.

If you look at the etymology of “writer”, you’ll find: “one who can write, clerk; one who produces books or literary compositions”

Hmmm… If we take “produces” as meaning publishing, we have writers who have published.

“Writer” also has this root meaning: “sign-painter”

Naturally, the English language is rather organic and tends to grow beyond certain meanings. Does this mean that using the term “author” for a person who has written something but not yet published is Wrong ?

There are many things that various people say Must be a certain way. And then, there are actually things that Must be a certain way.

If you don’t want to be killed by a long fall to the pavement, you Must not walk over the edge of the roof.

But, Must we restrict the term “author” to those who have published?
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31 responses to “This Is The Way It Must Be Done!

  1. Karla Telega March 18, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    I use the distinction for myself as a kind of carrot. If I don’t give up on the work involved in getting my book published, I can call myself an author. I don’t consider it a hard and fast rule, and would certainly encourage others to grab a hold of the title when they think it’s appropriate for them. I know a lot of published writers who never really consider themselves “authors.” I think my biggest semantic hang-up will be in considering my writing to be “literature.”


  2. Selena Wolff March 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Thank you, from an unpublished “Author” (you’ll notice the capital A!). Don’t you think author/writer is a frame of mind, as well? As with many others, it took me a long time to be able to call myself that, even though I’ve written for a long time.


  3. Simone Benedict March 18, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Of course if we add the word ‘professional’ to either job title, it adds importance. :-)


  4. Simone Benedict March 18, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Here’s another way we could look at the distinction, possibly. A horseshoer shoes horses. A farrier also shoes horses, but provides hoof care (trimming, cleaning, etc.) as well.

    In my mind, I can easily compare a farrier to an author and a horseshoer to a writer. For example, I think of a newspaper reporter as a writer, but not as an author.


  5. Simone Benedict March 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Roland Barthes made the distinction as activity versus function. Okay, now my brain hurts…


    • Alexander M Zoltai March 18, 2011 at 5:32 pm

      I looked him up and found, admittedly with a brief search, this:

      “‘Functions’ are the elementary pieces of a work, such as a single descriptive word that can be used to identify a character. That character would be an ‘action’, and consequently one of the elements that make up the narrative.”

      What I make of that is that the act of writing (what a writer does) deals with functions and characters. Then, I suppose, once the writer has brought character and function to the level of narrative, they are acting as an author…

      My brain’s starting to hurt, too ;-)


  6. Amy Buchheit March 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    My question is, what is considered published these days? As a professional visual artist (who can be put in the realm of “writer” now that I have my own blog), I have wondered on this distinction. With the advent of Kindle (published, I assume?), the Internet (unpublished?) and other forms of getting the work out there, the lines have blurred, particularly for those standing outside the profession (or with a toe in).

    I have had one poem published as part of a collection of poems long ago. Does that make me an author?

    It is endlessly fascinating to me, the distinctions drawn between artist/not artist, professional/not professional, writer/author. Lines seem to shift depending on who you are talking to. Even when there is a “clear” definition, interpretations can skew the clarity and take the mind down a different path. Very interesting!


    • Alexander M Zoltai March 19, 2011 at 7:36 pm


      My understanding of “published”, as far as writing, is when the work is “reproduced” on/in a public venue (Internet, other digital devices, and print) OR when put on paper and handed to others :-)

      As far as your one published poem, I think you were an author when you wrote it…

      And, yes, the plethora of opinions on this/that and either/or and this/but-not-that are often messy.


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  9. Allan Douglas April 25, 2011 at 10:11 am

    I have always considered the label “author” to be roughly synonymous to “doctor” as being one who has successfully completed a rite of passage and received the approval of their peer-superiors.

    I have generally considered myself a “writer” because I have not had a novel formally published. I have had a book mainstream published, but it was instructional non-fiction, not a novel. The advent of self-publishing tosses the whole process on it’s ear.

    Perhaps I too should upgrade my name badge to “author”.


    • Alexander M Zoltai April 25, 2011 at 2:53 pm

      Allan, I think you should definitely consider calling yourself an author. I just read your excerpt from Tale of the Draggon and find it authorial.

      I’m going to add your site to the Blogroll here :-)


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