Sunday, September 21, 2014

Writer vs. Author: What's in a Name?

I'm in marathon training. For those of you who don't know, a marathon is 26.2 miles. Always. So when someone says they're going to run a marathon, if they're serious, they don't mean some random amount of miles. They mean 26.2 miles.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the distance, 26.2 miles is a long way to run. If you're a professional runner, the world record for men is around 2:03, and for women is 2:15. That's two hours and three minutes (fifteen minutes) of body-breaking, sweat-pouring, lung-collapsing running. No rest, no walking, just one foot in front of the other at a screaming fast pace.

That's an average of 4:41 (5:08) minutes per mile. Seriously folks, running around five minute miles for two hours without stopping is god-like. I cannot imagine that feeling, although I do not envy the pain they feel the next day.

The average marathon times for "real" people are about double that: 4:26 for men and 4:52 for women. features/Articles/2011RecapOverview.cfm. This puts your pace into the more human range of 10:08/11:08 minutes per mile, but still, that's a long time and a long distance to run at that pace.

I have a few friends who have clocked marathon times in the three hour range. Awe. Some. They train crazy hard, watch everything they eat, and have very little body fat. They've even qualified to run Boston--which is super hard to do: have run in that marathon at least once.

Me? I'm faster than the average bear but not faster than the average human runner. I'll be lucky to hit 5:30, but each individual has his or her own obstacles to jump when it comes to facing a marathon. With bad knees, bad ankles, and exercise-induced asthma, if I can hit 5:30 or less, I'll feel accomplished. Honestly, I'm aiming for less, but a lot depends on race-day conditions, body conditions, and luck.

Why do I mention this in a writing/revising/metaphor blog titled "Writer vs. Author: What's in a Name?"?

Because the difference between a jogger and a runner is the same difference between a writer and an author. There are some stigmas--unnecessary ones, but life's rarely fair--to certain terms, but it's important to say what you mean with the right words.

For example, a jogger and a runner may have the same skills, the same abilities, but not the same goals. In GENERAL, a jogger is someone who runs for recreation. They usually don't sign up for races, they usually don't care to try to improve their time or distance after a certain point. They're out there mainly to improve or maintain their health, lose weight, be social, etc. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, there's a lot of good in that.

It's less stressful for one thing. Why put yourself in a race you know you can't win? Why punish your body with speed work and hill work and risk falling or injury? Why run long distances and risk being hurt out in the middle of nowhere with no one to help? Jogging for your health or jogging socially is a great way to improve your life.

But for those of us who are runners, we want MORE. We want the challenge of running in races we might or might not win. Losing fuels our desire to try harder, train harder for next time. We want to push ourselves to the limit of our heart rate with speed work, to shred our quads and hams with hill work, and at the end of the workout sigh with a smile of satisfaction that the next day we're going to hurt...but we'll be faster for it. We want to extend that distance further: 10k. Half-marathon. Marathon. 50k. Ultra. How far can we go? What are our limits? The possibilities of seeing what we can do excite the runner into pushing harder and running faster.

The same is true for the writer and the author.

The writer and the author may both be equal in writing talent. They may both have great ideas and great stories.

The difference is their goals and the pursuit of those goals.

A writer writes and...that's about it. A writer may share his or her work with a few people, may enter a few contests here or there, submit a few manuscripts here or there, but for whatever reason never publishes a lot and never makes that a goal. This may be a choice (fear of rejection, lack of opportunity, etc.) or maybe they cannot get published (wrong market, wrong presentation, myriad of other reasons). Sometimes writers choose self-publishing but then are hesitant or unsure how to market themselves because of their previous experiences (rejection, lack of knowledge, etc).

Again, there's nothing wrong with being a writer. You don't have to publish to be great. Sharing your stories with friends and family is wonderful if that's what you want to do. I have family members who have no desire to publish their stories publicly but want to format their works into a finished form for us and their friends only. If that's the goal, then great!

It's less stressful being a writer. The more I see about the truths about how difficult it is to succeed in publishing, the more I'm happy to have a day job! If you're a writer, you don't have to worry about platform, about marketing, about whether to use this service or that, about query letters or agents, etc. You write for the joy of writing, and isn't that why we write? Because it brings us joy? Because it brings others joy? Because we get to share our stories? So why not just stay a writer?

But some of us want MORE. Some writers want to become published authors. Some want the challenge. Some want it because they want the money. Some want the prestige. Some want the name of a big-house publisher on the jacket of their book. Some of us are willing to throw ourselves out there, take rejection after rejection, work daily on our platform, work daily on our marketing plan, work daily to build a readerships, and work every conference and convention to gather a network of agents and editors and writers who know our name and face.

Sound like work? It is. Sound like writing? It isn't. And it isn't fair that those of us who are or want to be authors have to work so hard at all this extra stuff just to BE authors and not get to do the one thing we WANT to do all the time: write. But that's life. It isn't fair.

But where is it written that life is fair? Pull up your big girl panties or your man pants and get over it.

So what are your goals? Do you want to be a writer or an author? Neither one is better than the other. Yes, there are stigmas associated to not being published, but so what? We're artists. Artists by definition are undefinable. Create your own definition. Don't let others pressure you into their idea of what you want. You decide and take your creativity where you want it to go.

Revise your definition: jogger, runner, writer, author. Have I changed it or do you disagree? I'd love to hear from you!

And yes, by the way, the 5k first place medal is mine. As a runner, I put my all into every race, even the ones I'm certain I won't win. Sometimes, when the conditions are right, I win some bling. You never know when persistence pays off, even when you're as slow as a turtle! (Yes, there were other women in my age group!)


Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
The Metaphor of the Ring in Fantasy

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

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