writer v. author

19 January 2005 at 10:29 Leave a comment

Some time ago I read “The Crepuscule: Twelve Reasons for the Death of Small and Independent Bookstores” by John Usher, offered upon the closing of Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop in Boston.

At the time it shocked me, especially reason number “4. Writers–who sell their souls to be published, write what is already being written or choose the new for its own sake, opt to feed the demands of editors rather than do their own best work, place style over substance, and bear no standards–for boring their readers unto television.”

This was probably in May, when I had stumbled onto DorothyL. In March, I had finished the first draft of my first book and was beginning to do research into getting it published. Well, I wasn’t sure I could actually write a book to my own satisfaction, so I didn’t bother looking past the writing phase until I was on my way out of it. But what I found was that it was true, especially that they would “sell their souls” to be published. It was amazing to me that people talk about writing to word counts, having to change pen names because publishers want a new series or a fresh name or your old one just doesn’t sell well enough, writing for two or more series at once. It’s all business. And that takes the soul out of the books, too.

A book needs to be about itself. About humanity. About questions and answers that can’t be communicated in other ways, most obviously television. Or what? It’s just business…that should be the domain of editors and publishers, not authors. Well, maybe there’s a difference between being a writer and an author? A writer a ‘professional’ and an author an amateur?

I’m sure that if you want to make your living writing, these are the sacrifices that one has to make. I suppose it’s easy for me to be astounded because I have no expectation of actually making a living off of my writing. I write because I want to and must. Not for any other reason.

But I have to thank John Usher because his essay makes it so much easier to deal with those people who pester me with, “are you published?” I was able to relax that expectation of myself (and I could give a snap about other people’s opinions) because I understood why I’m so reluctant to press the issue: my writing isn’t about getting published. And it doesn’t have to be.


Entry filed under: writing.

fawn/Orphans/’detritus’ Independent bookstores

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What I’ve been reading:

  • James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, L.L.D. (London, 14 King William Street, Strand: William P. Nimmo, 1876). 4 years ago
  • Marsilio Ficino, Letters of Marsilio Ficino, v. 3, trans. Language Dept. School of Economic Science, London (New York: Gingko Press, 1985). 4 years ago
  • Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988). 4 years ago
  • Stephanie Kallos, Broken for You (New York: Grove Press, 2004). 5 years ago
  • Marsilio Ficino, Letters of Marsilio Ficino, v. 2, trans. Language Dept. School of Economic Science, London (New York: Gingko Press, 1985) 5 years ago

T. Anderson Painter

I am a misanthrope. No one ever believes me, but this seems to prove my point.



2003-2013 T. Anderson Painter
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