Some time ago, I read a blog post that argued for making a distinction between an author and a writer. I haven't been able to find it again, but the main point has stuck with me. I think it went something like this:
"The Writer" works in the present tense. You are a writer if you regularly pick up a pen or turn on your computer and start using words to express your ideas, your dreams, your fantasies, your fears. You are a writer when you put words together to communicate with others. You can write on paper, on a screen, or in your mind. You can be a writer without ever publishing a single piece. You can write a secret diary that will never see the light of day. You' can be a writer of letters, a writer of a blog, a writer of headlines, or a writer of the next great American novel. Genre doesn't matter. Format doesn't matter. What really matters is that you are actively doing the writing.
"The Author", on the other hand, lives in the past tense. An author is someone who was once a writer, and then published what she wrote. Again, the genre doesn't matter; the format doesn't matter. What matters is taking that final step--publishing the written word in an effort to communicate with a reader. You're not an author until you've finished the writing.
Another way to look at the difference is this. Writing is a solitary occupation. Being an author requires a reader to complete your effort. And that's important. I think it was in the same article that a second distinction appeared. A writer can be an introvert. An author must be an extrovert.
I've been thinking about all of this because I'm entering my least favorite part of the writing process. I'm finishing a book manuscript. "The Road to Frogmore" is over 85% finished. Four or five chapters to go, and then will come the editing, the polishing, the design decisions, the pre-publication steps, the launch, and then the marketing of this book I've been harboring in my imagination for the past three years. It can be an exciting time, but . . . introvert that I am, I'd rather be writing.
There's something exciting and inspiring about starting a new book. I love the research, the period of character development, the plot outlining. I'm happy as can be in my little office hideaway, pounding out sentence after sentence, chapter after chapter. I'm eager to know how it all turns out. But when a book is finished, I'm less enamored of the role of author. That means appearances, book signings, advertising, promotional bric-a-brac, reading reviews, and counting sales.
And then comes the real dilemma. Do I ride this book into the sunset? Or do I start a new one? And can I do both? Is there time to promote the books that are finished and explore a new world of colorful characters and intriguing plot twists at the same time? At the moment, I don't know the answer to those questions, and I'm feeling very unsettled.