Writers vs. Authors – ok, go.

When someone asks me what I do for a living, I usually say, “Do you have a couple minutes to let me explain?” It’s not that I’m a raving narcissist and just want to hear myself talk (sometimes), it’s just that I’ve always tripped up on how to describe my life as a writer/author. It’s not helpful that I’m relatively new to this gig either. After six years of working in insurance, you’d think I’d be an expert at selling myself. But in all honesty, the reverse is true.

Why is that?

I suppose the biggest hang up I have is knowing what follows my answer. “Oh, you’re a writer, are you? Well, what exactly do you write?”

That’s a toughie right there. That question can be as broad or as specific as it can get. For if you present yourself as a writer, then people may assume that you’re actively writing. You could be a technical writer for a large company or you could be a beat writer for a local newspaper. You could also be an aspiring author who is looking to make a career out of telling great stories (that one sounds the most appealing to me…). But if you say you’re an author, then people have the perception that you’re established in the publication world. And when that happens, you have to describe just what it is you’ve spent your time writing about. Be it something totally irrelevant or totally absurd to the ears of a questioning acquaintance.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be engaged in both of these conversations. So I know a little something about how this show plays out. When I say I’m a writer, people ask what it is I choose to write about. So I give the answer that I write all sorts of things – experience-based satire, fiction, fantasy, and other fun stuff like that. Depending on what nerve you hit, the other party may probe a little further. “Satire, eh? What kind of satire?” or “So you’re into fantasy stuff? What types?” And from there, the conversation becomes give and take. You share a bit about why you choose to write about those topics while the other person tells you why that topic interests them so greatly. I find this to be very enjoyable. I learn a little to a lot about the person I’m talking to and in turn, they learn a little bit of something about me. Not a bad outing, I’d say.

But what happens when I say I’m an author? Well, I get some rather mixed reactions….

“An author, huh? How successful are you?”
“So you say you’re an author? How many books have you sold?”
or my favorite….
“You don’t look like an author. Shouldn’t you have a big beard or something?”

I’ve discovered the unfortunate truth (and you should too) that people love to address social status when presented with the opportunity to do so. And why wouldn’t they? The term “author” gives the implication of established credit. That you’ve “made it” somehow in your profession. In order for you to be an author, you must have published something significant. No one goes throwing around the term “author” unless he feels like he’s accomplished something, lest he be labeled a fool for doing so. And thus, these are the reactions one can receive for being so bold.

So what do you say when addressed with such inquiries? Well, to answer each of those above questions in order, here are some of my responses:

“More than I can count.”
“I can’t grow effective facial hair but I’m hoping to do so one day, thank you.”

I’ve made certain to rehearse each of those for each situation. It’s the preparation that makes all the difference, I assure you.

But in all seriousness, I’ve published two books to date and therefore take great pride in saying that I’m an author. On the flipside of that statement, I love to write about just about anything so I’d rather not pigeonhole myself in the guise of a particular genre (which just so happen to be short story satire). I plan on writing fictional short stories and I’m dabbling in some fantasy and mystery ideas too. So if I’m smart about it, and recognize that every person I talk to from here on out is a potential reader, I’ll be sure to mention that I’m a writer, first and foremost. That makes the most sense to me anyway. Perhaps one day when I have several more works in the marketplace and I’ve gotten more specialized, I can start talking about being an author. But until that day comes, I’ll stick to being a writer. The more interest I can gain, the better and I’m convinced that if you’re a good enough writer, then you can write about anything and be good at it.

Even without the hefty beard.


  1. Haha, great blog. I never thought about the beard trademark. But now that I think of it, all the greats branded a beard in their prime. Below are a few Mickey Spillane quotes that you’ll enjoy.

    “I’m a commercial writer, not an author. Margaret Mitchell was an author. She wrote one book.”

    “Now I’m not an author, I’m a writer. That’s all I am.”

    “Those big-shot writers could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar.”

    “If you’re a singer you lose your voice. A baseball player loses his arm. A writer gets more knowledge, and if he’s good, the older he gets, the better he writes.”

    “Authors want their names down in history; I want to keep the smoke coming out of the chimney.”

    See you later haha,

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