Sunday, June 7, 2015

Author vs. Writer

For as long as you've given any thought to such distinctions, you've preferred the term writer to the use of author.  Perhaps the reasoning began in the early sense that authors have published things and you'd not published much worth thinking about.  But you'd written any number of things you believed worth continued thinking about.

Author seemed somehow pretentious, even though you had no qualms about discussing authors you admired or had polar feelings about.  You even added to your amicus brief for writer the observation that write stands as a verb while if one were to use author as a verb it would need the equivalent of crutches to support it.  Even then, author as a verb would still sound pretentious.

Even after you'd had more things published and were on your way as well to acquiring hands-on editorial techniques, moving toward becoming what is called a shirt-sleeves editor, you found more comfort in thinking of yourself as someone who writes in the present, wrote in the past, and had written in the completed past act.

Not until you began compiling a sense of vision about ways in which the narrative techniques for telling stories had evolved, from the distant past, from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, did you feel the need to define terms, conditions, and the evolutionary process to yourself in order to bring the weight of confident voice to what you write.  

When you began assembling and relating terms, then recognizing you were going to put them together in a book, some critics told you you were crazy; such definitions were available in such common places as dictionaries, Wikipedia, and studies in critical theory.

Your answer to these critics was to wonder where you could find your definitions of composition building blocks.  Why of course, in dictionaries, Wikipedia, Google, and studies in critical theory.  In such places, you'd find the definitions you'd absorbed from the literature culture in which you were schooled, in the books you'd read, and in all the unchecked sources you'd not yet found time to explore and decode, for some of these were indeed in a code every bit as enigmatic to you as the languages of the First American Code Talkers must have been to our World War II foes in the Axis.

The lesson to be learned was forming your own language, in effect identifying as many tools as you could find in your archaeological, anthropological, and historical searches, then writing your own instruction guide.  You are well on your way of doing so, to the point where you can recognize your own voice in the clamor of ideas and materials sweeping through your head, over and beyond the conventional and editorial equivalents of leaf blowers, scattering the detritus from your intended events, their meanings, and their consequences.

Author, as you see that individual, is the person who has assembled a crew of distinct personalities, driven by inner and conventional goals to achieve some result which will upset some stasis, cause possible reverberations, and invite consequences.

Almost from the get go, authors have strolled forth into the readers' midst, making observations, encouraging, explaining, using his or her storytelling persona to direct us toward a conclusion that seems plausible and at the same time whets our appetite for more story.

Early readers, having no experience with novels or short stories, believed they were getting true accounts of real persons who had experienced the trials and tribulations of abandonment, shipwreck, orphanhood, and broken romantic promises.Some readers felt betrayed or deceived; they resolved to be more careful about believing things in the future.

Authors used various devices to entice readers to believe, paving the way for one of the great, if somewhat overblown critic, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, to define for himself, and then for all of us to follow the concept where the reader willingly suspends disbelief, and what that great humbug, Donald Rumsfeld, wrapped in his tailor-made fitting of the American flag, called plausible deniability.

Over the years, you've watched the process of evolution in the way authors have moved from telling a story to showing it, to presenting it.  Now, just as you are becoming aware of the author, seeing him or her for what the author was, has become, and is even now evolving toward, you are going to have to make some more decisions about Author vs. Writer.

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