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Imposter Syndrome: Writer vs. Author

writervacationWriter, hell nearly every occupation where there is no definitive criteria for assuming the title, comes with an occupational hazard. Really, this imposter syndrome, or belief you will be found to not be what you claim you are, is wrapped in fear and a lack of confidence. It is easy to spot and even identify, but much harder to overcome. Instead of battling those demons, let’s look a solution: definitions.

If you are a writer, you must write. This sounds basic, but it is missed by writers all the time. There are authors with published works who could easily be defined as “former writers.” Why? They aren’t writing any more, nor do they plan to. Having a single work published may allow you to fit yourself in the definition of author, but it does not make you a writer. A writer writes, and if he/she does not write, that person is miserable. That feeling of something essential missing in your life if you are not getting words on the page makes you a writer.

If you have published a work, or had it published, you are an author. Note the distinction. A writer writes, an author has a published work. Your path to publication does not matter. What matters is you have put work out in the public eye to be reviewed, ridiculed, and read. This changes the game for many people. There are those who write and publish for a specific purpose, like a political campaign. Or because they have a single book they want to share with the world. It is possible to be this kind of an author, and not write all the time. (These books are often ghost written anyway) Which leads to…

You can be a writer, and not an author. You can be an author, and not a writer. Writing is practice. Publishing is the game. Some writers never enter the game and become authors. Some authors either write for a purpose: part of a business plan, a campaign, or some other purpose. Often these people hire a writer to tell their story in order to earn the title of author. But you don’t have to battle the daily need to write to be an author.

There is such a thing as an aspiring author, and they come in many forms. But there is no such thing as an aspiring writer. Either you write, and therefore are a writer, or you don’t, and you aren’t. Author is a much different term.

So if you are a writer, proudly claim the title. If you are an author, claim that one too. You don’t have to live believing you are an imposter, and will soon be found not to be what you claim. Maybe you disagree with my definition of terms. I would love to hear your definitions in the comments below.

Published inAdvice for AuthorsOpinion

6 Comments

  1. “A writer writes, and if he/she does not write, that person is miserable.” Yes; that’s it exactly. Great piece.

  2. Great differentiation. I love it! I’ve been a writer all my life. Recently I’ve become an author. That makes me want to keep being a writer!

  3. Loni Townsend Loni Townsend

    I’m a writer. And an author. But I mostly claim the title of writer. Even if it’s just a line daily, I will write. I must!

  4. There are times I have thought being a writer is a curse. I was mentally incapable of participating in the bullshit of most forms of professional writing. Yet I continued to write letters to the editor, articles to small and unknown magazines, read at open mics and bars, and edited newsletters. In 2007 I became an author when I formed my own publishing company and published my own book. Now I have three and still write.

    • Troy Lambert Troy Lambert

      Very cool Richard. Sometimes we just have to take the plunge. No one ever said it would be easy. But it is so worth it.

  5. becoming an author lets writers have some reply when others ask us why the hell we are always (“wasting our time”) writing!

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