I was working on my book this Tuesday morning before work when I got stumped by this question: What is the difference between a writer and an author? I believe there is a distinction between the two, but I was struggling to define it. So I put the question out to the all-seeing, all-knowing social media.
The answers I got ranged from “an author is someone who is published” to “a writer is a composer of words, whether human or machine”. Mostly, it boiled down to one thing: an author is the originator of an idea and has ownership of the work, while a writer executes on the expression of that idea. (A person can be one or the other, or both.)
It’s the idea that matters most. Skilful writing is essential to getting that idea across, but it’s a secondary consideration in creating a work of importance. And that brings me to the point I was trying to pin down in my book. The first and most important job of the author is to think about things in a new way; to bring an obscure situation to light, or find fresh insight into an old problem. And then yes, those ideas must be communicated in order to have a place in the world, but that’s a different matter. Editors and even ghostwriters can help to put another person’s idea into words if necessary. But no amount of deft wordsmithing can substitute for an original thought.
Do you have a different take on this question? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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