Monday, August 10, 2009

Who Decides What Makes an Author?

By Nichole Giles

When I was first getting started with writing—I mean, writing for real—I used to wonder at what point a writer became an author. Did I have to be published first? And what kind of “published” meant I was officially an author? Do magazine stories count? Or should I wait until I have a book published?

Then I wondered who gets to make those kinds of decisions. I could see it in my mind’s eye: Someone official and special (probably an editor or agent) would come to me, big published book in hand and say, “I hereby proclaim you, Nichole Giles, an author of the first degree, promoted forthwith from the title of lowly writer.”

Except guess what? That never happened. I’ve published numerous articles, blogs and other pieces of writing, and am working feverishly at several books—some which will be on shelves this year, and some next—but no one ever came to me and said, “Hey, you’ve been promoted.”

What’s the deal?

Okay, here’s the truth. It doesn’t matter what you write, or if or when you ever get published. Does not matter if you publish short stories, or articles or epic series novels, you can still be a real, live author. If you write, you’re an author. No one has the power to decide that for you. No one but you gets to decide what value you put on your writing. No group, or organization, or special agent, or super powered editor is going to sit you in a chair and interview you to determine if you are—in fact—worthy of the illustrious author title. No one can make that crucial decision except you.

So go ahead. Call yourself an author and be proud of it. Go to conferences, get-togethers, and other gatherings, and introduce yourself as an author. It’s okay, you aren’t lying. And if you feel funny about it, like maybe you need that justification, here it is: I, Nichole Giles, Author of the Highest Degree, hereby proclaim you, (insert name here), an author, forthwith promoted from the lowly title of writer.

You’re welcome. Except, there is one catch. In order to keep the title I’ve just given you, you have to go forth, write, keep writing, keep trying, and never forget how important it is for you to write. That is the only charge for my services today.

Stay tuned in two weeks for the announcement of the big winner. (Remember, Cindy Beck and I are giving away a copy of our book, “Mormon Mishaps and Mischief: Hilarious Stories for Saints.” The winner will receive their prize hot off the printing press in December.)

See you next time!



Kami said...

I absolutely LOVED this post. I watch my oldest brother struggle with his book series, screaming in his head his desire to be published. He is so good that I've told him he IS an author even though he won't be convinced until his words are published for everyone to see. I'll have to email this article to him to hopefully boost his morale.

As for me? I still just consider myself a wannabe. When the day comes that I can actually spend time writing every day then maybe I'll consider calling myself an author, publication or not!

Fiauna said...

This post put a smile on my face. Thank you.

JoAnn Arnold said...

Yes, I agree completely. Enjoyed your post.

kersten campbell said...

So true!

Nichole Giles said...

Kami, Yes, do share this with your brother. It's true that no one makes this decision for us--it's completely up to us. As for you, even wannabes can be authors with a little bit of schedule rearranging. Think about it--you can write for five minutes a day. That's enough.

Fiauna, I'm so happy to make you smile. That makes me smile, too.

JoAnne and Kirsten, glad you enjoyed my post.

Thanks for commenting everyone!


Jolynn said...

Great advice for authors. I write children's books.

Impkatt said...

What winderful advise! so many authors lose sight of their direction, but it sounds like you have the road mapped out. Kudos!!

Rio Denali said...

Great article! It really comes down to internalizing the label.

I have a friend who went through something similar... not willing to call herself an author after over 10 years of writing, despite running one of the largest homemaking websites in the nation (writing most of her own articles), and co-authoring a book. She was the inspiration for my article, "Does the Refusal to Accept a Label Hold a Person Back?"

We have all been told that labels can be damaging. We have been told not to label our children, or allow others to label us. But, it is interesting to note that it can be equally damaging to our self-esteem, self-concept, and career when we don't accept labels that we have earned.