It’s Just That Simple

Posted: March 21, 2012 in writer, writing, Writing/Publishing
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Sometimes I think I read too much for my own good because inevitably I come across comments that, as Arsenio Hall used to say, “make you go hmmm…”

For example, think of how many things people say are to die for.

Puhleeze…are you serious? I will die for my family, my country, my God, and to protect the life of someone else. But I refuse to die for pie, cake, a cute pair of shoes, Justin Bieber’s hair, a purse, a new car, the Chocolate Melting Cake that Celebrity Cruise Line serves at dinner, or the pizza at Max’s Pizza in Surf City (though to be fair, I would walk a mile or so for a slice, but I draw the line at death).

So you know I wasn’t about to sit on my hands when I found this one:

Is there something that you have the passion and proximity to write about? Maybe it’s time that you became an author.

Uh-huh. It would be nice if you could just decide to become an author, have the Author Fairy swoop down and sprinkle author dust on your noggin and poof…there you are. A genuine author.

OK, all you authors out there, pull out your balloon bursting pins and all together now…1…2…3…KA-POW.

The truth is, there is a part of every one of us who has ever put fingers to keyboard, typewriter keys, or tablet screen, that harbored a secret hope that the quote above was really true. But soon the pin comes out, the balloon pops, and reality rears it’s ugly head. The real secret to becoming an author is this:

You have to be a writer first.

There is no shortcut. It takes hours of writing and rewriting. It takes a few false starts. And it takes the willingness to serve that apprenticeship called doing the work. It takes learning what works and what doesn’t. It takes having an idea worth developing, then developing it within the boundaries you or someone else has set. Then someone has to publish it. And no, self-publishing doesn’t always count. Granted, some self-published efforts are really good. Some are amazing. Some cause big publishing house editors to drool and make offers.

But some are little more than bound copies of rehashed ideas, poor plotting, bad dialogue, and things that could never have found a home anywhere else. And that does not equal author. That is the equivalent of having a fancy printer and a stapler.

The late Charles L. Grant put the difference between writer and author in perspective years ago during his keynote address at a writers conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Some of you have asked about the difference between being a writer and an author. Today I am being an author. I had breakfast with some very nice people and we talked about writing. I’ve signed about fifty books for people so far and I’ll probably sign a few more as the day goes on. I have talked with some more very nice people about their writing projects, given some some other nice people advice about publishing and I looked at a few manuscripts during the consultation time. I had lunch with a lot of nice people and we talked about writing. And in a few hours we’ll do the same thing at supper. After supper you will go to the open mic sessions, have another panel discussion, and hang out in the lounge.

While you’re doing that, I will boot up my laptop, grab a Dr Pepper, and finish the last chapter of a book that is due next week. I’ll probably be up most of the night because I have painted my protagonist into a corner and I don’t know how to get him out of and still make it believable. What that means is I will have to go in and rewrite parts of three other chapters in order to make the ending work. But whatever it takes I will wrestle that S.O.B. to the ground before the night is over. Then I will email it to my wife so she can do the final edits while I’m driving back to New Jersey tomorrow.

That’s being a writer.

Maybe what they meant was: Is there something that you have the passion and proximity to write about? Maybe it’s time that you put in the work, made a few sacrifices, and became a writer.

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