Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Authors and Writers

One of the more frustrating replies to the answer of "I'm a writer" (see my post on Clark Kent vs. Superman from last week), for me at least, is "Oh, me too! I just LOVE to write!" This is usually said in a gushy, hands-clasped-before-the-chest way, as if the act of writing were the equivalent of teenage puppy love (for some people, I guess it might well be).


I've made some business cards for myself - I can't even describe how weird it was to just type those words - to take to conventions and other gatherings, so if I meet someone I connect with I'll have a quick and easy way to help them remember my name. I deliberated on the design for a while, and decided to stick with the simple, easy layout. The thing I like best about it is the black band that goes across the middle of the card, where a definition is printed in white:

author: \ˈȯ-thər\ 1. One who originates or creates.

This is how I present myself, how I view myself, as much as I can: as one who originates or creates. Authors are nothing less than gods in their imagined universes, and they are the ones who decide the fates of the worlds (and words) they create. Authors have a calling, and are forced to answer it, lest they go insane. Authors fight for the ideas they believe in and love. They are artists, with a capital "A", and they weren't given a choice about their role in life. Most of all, authors are conduits for the energy of the universe. Sounds kooky, I know, but I believe it. Stories are found, they're discovered, they're radioed to us from some unknown source out there in the midst of all that revolving matter which makes up our reality. It's our job as artists - as authors - to keep the channels open and the equipment in as good working order as we can manage. Of course, that can be tough, as we're all alone in most of what we do, and (like Indiana Jones) we're kinda making this shit up as we go along.

Then there are writers. All authors are writers, but not all writers are authors. It's one of those square vs. rectangle things we learned back in middle-school geometry. There are some people out there who believe the ability to string words together and make a coherent thought with them proves they're a writer. They like to pass the time by doodling on notebook pages about the dark recesses of teen angst they've been caught in for years. Anyone who's suffered through a high school creative writing class knows the people I mean. In our writers' meetings, we call these the "love-glove-dove people". (Ten points if you know where this reference comes from.) Their work is painful to read, especially as the majority of them aren't willing to listen to any constructive criticism - their goal isn't so much to get their words out there to the general public as it is to have a few people listen to them and immediately commence with the ego-stroking as soon as their work's been read.

I've perfected the art of choking my frustration down and being a patient listener to those gushing people who insist they LOVE to write; after all, we all have to start somewhere. I'm trying not to be catty or a snob towards people who have a love - if a mutated, perverse one - for the trade in which I try so hard to excel. Everyone deserves a fair chance and a sympathetic ear. It's really only those people who refuse to take criticism, who insist that their terrible poetry is beyond revision and came out of their soul whole (note the ever-amusing rhyme scheme, friends), that frustrate me beyond belief. Arrogance is the death of creation, I think; or at least one of its many forms. I can't speak for anyone else, but I know my best work comes while I'm being humble and filled with gratitude for the gifts the universe has given me.

It's that balance between humility and cockiness (one who originates or creates, remember, and that act of creation offers a rush so spectacular that sometimes it's hard not to be cocky) which is hardest to define and master for me. I guess I'll be working on my footwork in that particular dance for years to come.


Arlee Bird said...

Before Christmas I had some business cards printed to specifically promote my blog and nothing else-- just my pseudonym and my blog address. I wanted them for during the holidays so that whenever I met somebody and the blog came up and they showed the least bit of interest I could hand them a card rather then telling them how to find my blog. Kind of dumb? I don't think so. I'm putting my effort into it, so might as well treat is seriously.

Some writer's play at writing, while authors work at writing. If it's treated like a business then might as well have business cards. My next step will be to print up my "author" cards.


B. Miller said...

I totally agree, Lee... Since I made the paradigm shift to thinking of myself as a professional writer, I realized business cards are definitely in order, if for no other reason than they would give me a way to network with people at meetings and conventions. Thanks for the positive reinforcement!! :)

Helen Ginger said...

My business card lists me as:
Freelance Editor / Writer

It doesn't have my blog URL, but does have address, phone, website URL and email address. I've passed them out at conferences and to people I interview for my books, primarily.

Straight From Hel