I’m going to take a fairly radical stance here: amongst writers, at least the ones I know and read, it’s an article of faith that to be a writer, one must write. Asked by a newcomer how to become an author, most writers would answer that giver a variant on Raymond Chandler’s adage. If you want to write, said Chandler, then sit down in a room and write.
Oh, I know what he means and in a sense he’s absolutely write. You can’t be a writer without writing anymore than you can be a horseback rider without a horse.
But that’s easy. We all know that. The truth is, for many of us, writing doesn’t come easily. Or we have a hard time fitting it into busy lives. Or we are full of doubt, chained to an overly critical ego, don’t know how to start, what to write, when to stop and edit, et cetera.
Solving this riddle means focusing on a critical distinction between author and writer.
If you want to write – if you have the desire – then you’re an author. You may not be a writer yet, but you are an author.
Why do I say that?
The word author comes from the Latin word auctor which meant the originator. In turn, that draws on the verb augere which means to increase.
The author is the one with whom a vision of writing begins. The work of art originates inside of you – quite apart of the act of creating. In fact, before one can create, one must have something in mind to create. We might not be aware of the vision or idea. The raw material might be scant indeed – but it’s there.
If you feel the urge to make something, then you are an author. You are claiming a divine – a sacred, even – prerogative to create. This is the godly impulse itself. Most spiritual traditions account for the creation of the world and its inhabitants. There is a Source from which all possibility springs.
As author, we tap that source. We replicate that source’s replication, as it were.
Now, to be sure, that is not to say that we are writers. Writers do indeed sit down and plug away at the blank page. If you want to produce something that others can read – if you want to translate your authoritative vision into a product that audiences can read and share and celebrate – well, yes. You’re going to have roll the sleeves up and get to work.
And while I don’t demean that at all – writing has literally defined my life – I do want to make clear that I don’t consider it the be-all end-all of our writerly calling. The author’s vision – which is her lifeline to grace, her memory of Heaven made explicit on earth – is the true essence. Without that, writing is just scribbling.
So if you want to be an author, then seek for the impulse to create. If you’ve got it – if you can feel a driving need to create (which is something other than pining for attention or money, those dubious coins in this holy realm) – then you’re an author. You’re there.
All you have to do now is write. And that’s just no different than building a brick wall. One word at a time. One sentence at a time. One paragraph at a time.
You’ll get there because – as an author – you already are there.