Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Right to Call Myself an Author

by W.L. Elliott

Since the beginning, I have struggled with taking my own work seriously. Writing down my daydreams doesn’t seem like it could possibly be a genuine career, especially since I have yet to be paid for it. For anyone looking in on me while I’m doing it, it doesn’t look like much, I’m sure. I found a quote long ago that fits pretty perfectly.

“Whether it is done quickly or slowly, however splendid the results, the process of writing fiction is inherently, inevitably, indistinguishable from wasting time.” - Deborah Eisenberg

I’ve always said that I’m “just” a writer. I haven’t been published yet, so it doesn’t really count.

But I’ve just debunked myself today.

In preparing for a completely different blog, I looked up the translation of the words writer and author. Of course, only the best would do, so I went to Merriam-Webster online. Here is what I found out:

Main Entry: writ•er
Pronunciation: 'rI-t&r
Function: noun
: one that writes : as a : AUTHOR

Main Entry: 1au•thor
Pronunciation: 'o-th&r
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English auctour, from Anglo-French auctor, autor, from Latin auctor promoter, originator, author, from augEre to increase
1 a : one that originates or creates : SOURCE b capitalized : GOD 1
2 : the writer of a literary work (as a book)

Nowhere in the definition of the word author does it mention being published! Now isn’t that something?

Why is it that we, as writers, are so self-conscious about what we do? We already know that none of us may ever be the next J.K. Rowling. Frankly, I’m getting tired of hearing her name in relationship to mine every time I discuss being a writer. I don’t have to measure up to someone else in this quest. I have my own stories to tell, stories that I would want to read if I were shopping for a book. I don’t have to make a million dollars, or sign a movie contract.

As a matter of fact, from the moment my words hit the page, the Library of Congress recognizes them with a copyright.

As I sit considering this, a great example comes to mind. I have a favorite cassette tape. I found it twenty years ago, in a bargain bin at the mall being clearanced for 99 cents. The singers name is Jon Astley, the title of the album is “Everyone loves the pilot, except the crew”. He had one sort-of hit song in the mid-eighties. No one else that I know has ever heard of him. And yet, that tape is one of my all time favorites! I have rerecorded it onto new tapes because the old one is almost unplayable, its so worn out, and I can’t possibly replace it. Jon may not know it, I doubt he even has a fan club, but he does have one die-hard fan.

Is that enough? It is for me. Do you suppose Jon ever felt sheepish about calling himself a singer because he didn’t have a top-ten smash? Gosh, I hope not.

Therefore, despite the fact that no one else can see the battle scenes raging on in my head while I sit staring off into the void; despite the fact that I have yet to be published, I am doing something valuable! I am creating something that I believe to be of worth. I am not “just” a writer.

I am an author!

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