I’ve spoken at lengths in the past about writers and authors. Whether it was at a convention, or even periodically at this very site, I talk about distinguishing between a writer (a literary artist) and an author (a literary professional). Some people prefer to transpose the terms, which is fine. The vernacular and semantics are unimportant. What matters is noting the difference between the two.
A writer is motivated by their artistic goals and desires. They are motivated by a need to create, share, and present their work. It isn’t enough to make a work of art; it must be digested and experienced by an audience. That audience can be everybody in a writer’s circle, everybody on a fan site, or every literary consumer in the world. The audience depends on the writer, the work, and a host of other factors. You can debate about core audience versus ancillary audience and all that jazz, but at the end of the day, the writer creates work for an audience.
The author creates successful work for the purposes of promoting their professional career. It is limiting to say ‘they get paid’ but that is a big chunk of it. Authors are mostly writers who have a promotional and managerial component tacked on. Authors take written works and cultivate them for not just release but acceptance. They tailor the message of the work so that the target audience will accept it all the more.
A writer thrives on the acceptance of their work. An author gets paid. The two certainly can (and often do) coincide but they are not the same thing. When you are writing, you must keep this in mind. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway ‘write as a writer, edit as an author’ (actually, the phrase ‘write drunk, edit sober’ is misattributed to Hemingway but damn if it doesn’t sound like something he’d say).
I’ve seen this applied to other artistic endeavors too. Musicians and graphic artists, speakers and comedians, all walk the perpetual tightrope act. Michael Williams put it best when he said “We forever seek to strike a balance between the refusal to compromise and the willingness to include”.
I say this because I’ve been shifting my thinking of late, considering other artistic outlets of mine. In the martial arts world, we have the athlete versus the fighter. In most combat sports, especially things like mixed martial arts and no-holds barred work, one’s martial prowess doesn’t quite decide the outcome. Being more skilled won’t automatically grant you a victory against somebody who is bigger, faster, or stronger than you. Especially if your foe is all three. There’s a reason there are weight classes, after all. As a fighter, one must balance raw athletic training and specific skill work. As one has a proverbial training budget (only so much time and effort can be spent training before damage done overwhelms the body’s recuperative abilities), this is a precarious balance to strike.
Graphic art is another passion of mine. I’ve talked about doing comic books and illustrating my own works. Given the amount of pictures I post on here, I think you can see how well that’s coming along. In truth, I struggle often to find even a few moments a day to draw. What complicates this issue is that what I want to draw, what I need to draw, and what I have to draw, are all a little different.
See I want to be drawing movement and capturing the life of drawing. I need to be studying weight (both in bodies, and more technical stuff like line weight) and how posture and expressions are created in a lively manner. What I need to be drawing is more along the lines of rote proportions and the body’s movement in relation to itself. Artistic anatomy, as it were. What I actually have to draw is medical anatomy. Transverse colon in relation to the small intestines and the aortic lymph nodes. That sort of stuff. The jejunum and the ileum don’t have much baring on one’s posture but they are more important for my day-to-day work than contrapposto or chiaroscuro.
And this also all bumps up against the professional versus the novice versus the amateur. Professionals are those who can produce work of a quality that it is supportive, if not sustaining. Novices often have comparable skill but without the productive abilities. And amateurs…well, they’re just hobbyists. Enthusiasts. It’s easy to look at amateurs and say ‘they are underachievers’ and that would be a fallacy. In truth, the vast majority of artists are amateurs. They are the people who create for the sake of it, for the love of it.
And this begins to loop back around into artist versus professional, writer versus author. The two seem diametrically opposed at times, and sometimes even mutually exclusive. And at other times, they seem nearly synonymous.
I find myself struggling with that balancing act often, sometimes more and sometimes less. As I look at my sketching pencils, practically covered in cobwebs, I find myself once again re-evaluating what my goals are, and what they even can be. It’s easy to say ‘if it really mattered to you, you’ll find the time’. Easy to say and tone-deaf to those who have to make other priorities. Sometimes just because something is important doesn’t mean it can be made a priority.
And so I write. And I work. And if I am very productive, I can draw.
And if not, maybe tomorrow.