Writers and Authors

writer-vs-authorLately I have been working hard on a novel. It is not the first time I have tried to write a novel, but this is the furthest I’ve ever come. And it is still going strong. This is a miracle to me.

And suddenly it feels like I should have been doing this all along. I can talk to other writers with real knowledge of what they are going through, not just a sympathetic ear. I feel like I’ve crossed a border. I am creating a whole world that didn’t exist before, and peopling it with beings I made up. They say words I made up, they make movements I made up. It’s incredible, really.

One thing I didn’t expect: the stark contrast between being in that writing world, and then having to re-enter the Real World. I find myself drifting back to my fictional world in the middle of my days. Oh sure, I’ve heard of this from other writers before, but I didn’t think it was such a visceral, physical tug.

This explains a few things for me. There is, of course, a real difference between the life of a writer and the life of an author. A writer is in their own world, sometimes to the exclusion of all else. They are alone in a room, most of the time, or at least not talking to other people. They are pulling their mind in a different direction from anything that they would normally be forced to consider in daily life. The laundry, dinner, the dishes. Deadlines, bills, work. It’s all extraneous.

And I know this. Intellectually, I know this. I have heard people talk about it. One author I know gave a great keynote a few years ago about this exact thing. But to me, in the audience, not having entered that world in such a way, it was all academic. I knew what he was talking about, sort of, and I even referenced that in my work with other authors. I knew they would suffer as he did.

What I did not know was the depths to which the suffering would go. I thought I understood, but I didn’t. The difference between being a writer and an author is… well, the only thing I can think of that would be analogous is being born. Being whipped out of your comfy safe cocoon, warm and cozy, into a sea of bright lights and noise and demands. Ugh.

That is what an author must do. An author (as opposed to a writer) must push themselves through the birth canal (to use a rather mucky metaphor) and once they have done that, they cannot quit – they must live! They must navigate the ways of the media, they must self-promote, they must speak in front of groups.

This must be why I have found in my promotional work that many writers quit once their book launches. (And not just self-published writers, though they suffer from this more than traditionally publishers authors, I think.) I have worked with many writers who simply cannot or won’t do the work of promotion. They will blog and send out postcards and do events right up until launch month, but then, they just quit. They are done. I have seen this time and time again. It always puzzled me.

What I think is going on is that they didn’t anticipate this dichotomy. They enjoyed the writing so much, but didn’t realize what came after. There was some disconnect there that no one else could address, because the writers themselves didn’t even realize it existed (I’m guessing).

Oh my. What have I got myself into? It is the price we must pay, I guess, for that lovely place you find yourself in when your fictional world comes alive. Well, at least I know what’s on the other side. I mean, intellectually, anyway.