My Least-Favorite Thing About Being an Author

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:

  1. What is your favorite thing about being an author?
  2. What inspires you to write?
  3. How do you stay organized on your story?
  4. 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.

3 thoughts on “My Least-Favorite Thing About Being an Author

  1. Two thoughts:

    1. I was a lawyer in my past life (ok, up until December 2014) and I used to receive loads of emails from reporters who wanted me to basically write their articles about legal developments for them. Once or twice I also received emails from law students who asked me to “help” them with their assignments. The help they wanted seemed a lot like actually writing their assignments for them. Fortunately I wrote fairly in-depth articles about the topics they were researching so both reporters and law students received a list of links to articles on my law blog.

    2. I told my teacher at a language school that I am a writer and he asked me if I had published a book. I said not yet so he insisted that I am just a marketer. We agreed to disagree although I still haven’t written my book (or anything approximating it, just a lot of other stuff).

  2. Regarding #2, if you’ve written something, regardless as to whether or not it has been published, you are a writer. To paraphrase Stephen King, if you’ve written something, and sent it out on submission, and managed to sell it, and received a check for it, and the check didn’t bounce, and you used it to pay your gas bill, then you are a professional writer. 🙂

  3. Ok, on that basis I’ll continue to refrain from pretending to be a professional writer. I’m more of a hired gun who can string sentences together in a commercially viable manner.

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