I received an email message from a college student doing a report on being an author. Well-known author that I am, this student wanted to ask me some questions presumably to aid their investigation. The student had four questions:
- What is your favorite thing about being an author?
- What inspires you to write?
- How do you stay organized on your story?
- Was your start pay enough to keep you sustained?
The first question interested me more than all the others because of its implication: to have a favorite thing about being an author, you had be an author. I’ve never thought of myself as an author. I am writer.
If you’re a driver, you drive. If you’re a plumber, you plumb. If you’re a loser, you lose things. If you’re a writer, you write. That’s what I do. I write. “Author” is terrible as a verb. I’ve got Hank Fowler on my side. According to my Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage,
[The term “author”] is widely reviled by usage commentators, in part because of the general antipathy to “verbing”; it is forbidden in the AP Stylebook, while the Telegraph style guide says “the American habit of using it as a verb is to be studiously avoided.”
To me, an author is someone who signs books in bookstores. A writer is the person who writes the books. An author attends publishers’ cocktail parties in New York. A writer worries whether or not the apostrophe in “publishers’” comes before or after the s. An author reads fan mail. A writer writes the replies.
My favorite part about being a writer is writing. I like writing. I like turning an idea into something that someone wants to read. I like the process of writing. I enjoy sitting down at the computer, and tapping on the keys. I prefer the mechanical keyboard in my office over the keyboard on this laptop. There is something satisfying about finishing a story, or an article, or blog post. But I like writing it more. Writing is where the action is.
My least-favorite thing about being an author is getting email messages from college students asking me to do their assignments for them.