"he's not really into labeling things..."

Disclaimer: Illness refuses to leave my household. It keeps hitting us in waves. I guess this is life with a child in daycare. This post should have fallen back into step with my previous Monday schedule if I hadn't been passed out, sleeping off the latest round of sick. Sigh. To be on the safe side, let's just say, for the next little while, regular posts will irregularly occur on Monday or Tuesday, depending on what's going down... and now back to our irregularly scheduled post...

Everybody knows somebody (maybe even themself) who's been in one of those relationships where, sure, maybe the whole girlfriend/boyfriend thing hasn't been discussed, or they're panning to "see where things go", or are "keeping things casual". Sometimes these relationships develop into something more--maybe it's just a conversation that needs to happen--but often they go down the road of one person convincing him/herself (usually herself--sorry ladies, but we're suckers for romance and you know it!) that there's a commitment developing while the other is continuing to see other people (yeah, that's usually the dude). When you ask your friend how things are going, you get the full-of-denial-reply, "Oh, you know. He's not really into labeling things..." Sure he's not. It has nothing to do with him clinging desperately to his bachelorhood in the face of something he's not ready for...

The reason I bring this up is because we often find ourselves wanting to label things. It helps us compartmentalize, feel in control. It helps us to better understand a given situation. As a writer, I've often encountered times when someone would ask me what I do (or when I was in school, they'd ask what I want to be) and my day job aside, my answer would be one of two words: writer or author.

Is there a difference? I've come to think so. To me, an author is a writer, but a writer isn't necessarily an author. Let me explain. Writers write. They write poetry, the write essays, journals, articles, instruction manuals, marketing copy, novels, etc and so on. Writers are people who write...well, anything really. Authors on the other hand, are what writers become when they've achieved that occassionally-elusive next level of commitment. A lone chapter does not an author make, but a completed work? I think that does.
"Only the most committed authors proceed to down the contents of their inkwell after a solid writing sesh. Darling, please be a dear and ready the stomach pump!"
It can be a fiction, non-fiction, poetry, graphic novel, picture book--published or unpublished--doesn't matter what, but if you haven't finished something, I'd call you a writer, not yet an author. I'm not saying one is better than the other, I'm just saying that's the difference in my mind. It's my personal separation of the two, and feel free to disagree.

That said, when I was in school, even though I'd completed written works (short stories, essays, etc), I still considered myself to be only a writer. I wanted to be an author. It was something I'd talk about in those terms: "I hope to be an author one day" which actually meant "I hope to be a published author one day".  The distinction back then was, published = author; unpublished = writer.

I think that changed around the time I completed my first YA novel. It was such a weighty accomplishment. Even though it wasn't the one that landed me an agent, it was still a tremendous amount of work. It's writing. It's art. And though I'll further revise it one day, right now, I still consider it complete. Finishing it was what made me start to think of myself as an author. And yeah, I think the label is important--it's just not necessarily important to other people. But just as the girl who wants to refer to the guy she's dating as "her boyfriend" views that label with distinction, it's important to me. I don't write as a hobby (well, I do, but not exclusively). I write because I'm an author. I'm a writer and an author.

Where does your distinction between the two land? Or do you consider them interchangeable? If you write, how do you refer to yourself?