Thursday, December 5, 2013

Writer Vs. Author

Perhaps there is a moment in every life where one realizes the truth about oneself.  This truth could arrive in the form of lost loves, or forfeited opportunities, or even in the aftermath of some enormous success. 

This year has proven to be that type of realization for me: at least when it comes to certain aspects of my personality and the forces that have shaped my life.

For example, in 2013 I finally realized that I am--and probably always will be--a writer, but not an author.  Authors, after all, have recognizable names, high-profile agents or editors, and have enough contractual clout to warrant a modicum of lifestyle that might feature a change of venue or perhaps an ability to create the next book in relative ease, where all things can be considered and weighed and eventually committed to the page, or even surreptitiously abandoned.

Authors are people who get to write during the daylight hours, perhaps after sleeping late and enjoying a leisurly breakfast followed by a light workout . . . before they sit down to write.

Writers--writers like me--are quite another breed, however.  As a writer, I know that my production (and the rate of it) is the centerpiece of my work.  As a writer, I don't have the option of sleeping late, or enjoying a leisurely breakfast or a light workout.  Rather, my options are fewer.  Drive--and the strength of fortitude and commitment--must win the day if I am to have any hint of "success".  

As a writer, I realize that my work has never been top-tier.  I have no best-sellers, no Top Ten blogs read by thousand of readers, no recognitions to speak of.  Every new contract must be won by sheer force of labor.  To acheive anything as a writer, I must out-write, and sometimes out-wit the more talented authors.  And most often, as my parents taught me and told me as a child, I will not win the day by force of intellect, but by force of habit.  Discipline is paramount for the writer.  Hours and hours of practice.  A writer cannot operate with the mantra, "Early to bed, early to rise" . . . but must rise early and work late. A writer is someone who is willing to write, bearing up under the seemingly insurmountable weight of words and the ideas conveyed through them.  Writers cannot parse time or waste it.  Writers turn five minutes into a poem, or thirty minutes into an essay.  Writers must work.

I cannot explain how or why I have come to this realization.  I wish it were otherwise.  I would prefer to be an author, sipping champaign and hob-knobbing with socialites upon the release of my latest title.  But the truth is, I am a writer, and as soon as one book is completed, there is no time to celebrate its publication or even bask in its appearance on the shelf.  As soon as one book is completed, another begins.  

Thank God there are still publishers out there (and their respective editors) who appreciate writers like me . . . guys (and gals) who can get the job done, who grovel in the dirty business of writing these tens of thousands of mid-list books that carry the publishing industry forward.

I realize I am a writer (and not an author) because I have to push myself to the limit every day.  I have deadlines to meet (and thank God, many of them).  I have to rise early, gulp coffee, and then punish myself in the gym so that my energies and body will not wane, but will hold up under the obligations that have been assigned to me:  the writer.  I return home each day, usually having already written and worked a full load, only to sit once again in the dark and write forward through the evening hours until a new day arrives.  And then, it begins again when I rise a few hours later.  

But I realize authors don't do this.  Writers do.  

At 53 years of age, I realize that the trajectory of my life is unlikely to change.  And I'm not sure I would change it if the opportunity presented itself.  I've been a writer now for over 40 years.  Old habits die hard.

I'm not an author.  I'm a writer.  

I was a writer in 2013.

I will be a writer in 2014, too.      

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