Words, wording, writing, making : thoughts on authoring

Before we get into this post, I’d urge you to go and read this by the estimable and muy excellente Clara Vulliamy. It’s a really interesting post on the terminology of writing ie: do you call yourself an author? A writer? Or a … something else? 

And it is the inspiration behind this post. 

I don’t know what I call myself. Some days it shifts, really, like the sky on a storm-driven day and other days it’s as clear and as bright as the untrod snow. Sometimes I can say it quite proudly: I am a writer, and then other times, when I fold up inside myself and forget how to do it, I known I am anything but. Those days I am hopeful, mainly, in my efforts to get the words to do what I want them to do and conscious that they will very rarely do so. 

I find that contradiction towards my writing fascinating (infuriating, too!) and often wonder about the behind the scenes process of many a writer. I remember reading Enid Blyton’s autobiography and being fascinated by the quite astounding artifice of it. I’ve never really read anything quite like it, and haven’t since. In my eyes, Enid Blyton was An Author, a stiff-backed, slightly terrifying, terribly conscious of it Author. This may be far from accurate (though on the other hand..), and yet, it is the impression I have of her for good or for bad.

I think a lot of that impression comes from the books I read, so I wonder, I truly do, what people who are going to read my book are going to think? I find that so exciting. (I also find it thrilling terrifying nuts and much more besides). For me, the writer is their book and their book is the writer. The book may not be who they are now, but it is a part of them, as they were, as they were at one point and that part has been shaped into the book. 

And yet, as I go through this process with my book, I now know that the above isn’t accurate. Not really. It’s hard to define, but I think the best way is to say that I am now learning how to write a book and as part of that process, I am learning how to treat the book critically and as An Other. I don’t think I knew that before. Writing this book has been an evolving, organic process where you wallow inside it and push at the edges and discover what they are. Before that, I knew how to write moments, I think, but not how to shape them into a glorious, soul-swallowing heart-breaking and heart-making whole which can be captured in print and on paper and held between your hands. 

And I think it is, because of all of that, that I am most comfortable with the concept of being a maker of stories. I don’t think I’m an author, not yet. I don’t think I’m a writer, not yet, though sometimes I think I’m almost there. When I can, I will tell you about my belief in stories and how they shift and slide and how they are human led and human centred and human ended, and I will tell about my belief that we all have them inside of us. That we are all makers and shapers and we all have our story to tell. 

I must tell you about that, sometime. 

3 thoughts on “Words, wording, writing, making : thoughts on authoring

  1. ‘Writer’ seems rather all-encompassing to me: everyone writes, don’t they, that “What I did in the holidays” timewasting task schoolkids are set; those lines uninspired teachers gave you; one’s economical-with-the-truth CV; the insincere thank-you letter to an insensitive relative.

    But ‘author’ sounds more, well, authoritative, has more kudos, authorises you to proclaim your creative abilities. As a descriptor it says you have status in the way that ‘writer’ just makes you sound a mere hack: scriptwriter sounds OK to me, but script-author? We all know journalists write stories, but even if they win a Pulitzer prize would we consider them an author for a workaday job they appear to do? Aren’t authors artists?

    Words have resonance, and even if they’re frequently misused there’s no doubting that authors and writers share everything but esteem. Here endeth the less-than-profound pronouncement…

    ‘Maker of stories’: now that sounds status-rich!

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