Bonnie R. Schutzman wrote a great post just over a week ago on July 8 about her reflections on the question: “What is writing?” It was followed by a comment by Alex F. Fayle on the difference he sees between being a writer and being an author. The post and all its comments can be found here: http://bonniers.wordpress.com/2011/07/08/how-do-you-define-writing/
I tend towards being literal in my language use, sometimes to the point that people find me absurd. I don’t think I’m quite Amelia Bedelia anymore, but when my mom was explaining how to iron fabric for making quilts, she said not to move the iron, to just press down. Well, when I did that, I had a whole bunch of iron indentations in the fabric. I told my mom, and she said something to the effect of, “You didn’t really just leave it there without moving at all, did you? Did you really take me that literally?” Well, um, yes.
So, for me, any actual writing I do is, well, writing. This blog post is something I’m writing now, so it counts as writing. When I plan and make lists or anything that involves putting new words in a document or on a piece of paper, that’s writing, but if I’m getting great ideas in the shower, it’s not. When I’m revising, if I’m just reading and thinking, that’s not writing, but if I write a note about something, well, that is. Same with editing: circling a mistake isn’t writing, but writing a note about how to change something is.
On the other hand, when talking about the writing process, I like to separate things a little more, because 1) the different types of thinking and writing I do feel very different to me and 2) I keep trying to convince myself that I can work on two different projects as long as I’m doing different stages on each of them. So “writing”, when talking about what stage of a project I’m on, becomes the first draft writing, when I can just sit down and let the words pour out. And all of that work, from planning, to “writing” to revising and editing, as Bonnie said in her response to my comment, is part of the whole project. All of those parts are necessary, but since they feel different to me, I choose different words. Often, I expand the word for the first draft writing to “first-draft writing,” but other times, I find that clunky and overly cumbersome. It depends a lot on who my audience is.
Finally, I’ve long thought that a writer is someone who writes while an author is someone who has published something. I use the word “professional writer” for what Alex calls author: that is, someone whose profession is writing. That said, in other arenas, such as “professional dancer” or “professional photographer,” the word professional often indicates that the person is living entirely on that profession (aside from any possible spouse’s income). I don’t think it matters, to be honest. If they’re working full-time and living on their writing, I call them “full-time professional writers.” As for myself, I want to be a part-time professional writer.