Are you a hobbyist, a writer or an author?


I am a firm believer that everyone should follow his dreams, strike out down an uncharted road, take action.

That approach applies to writing just as it does to sky-diving.

You never learn how to do something until you jump in the deep end and flail around out where it’s sink or swim.

In the world of writing, I have seen three groups of people. I’ll just call them hobbyists, writers and authors.

The hobbyist is one who all her life  has wanted to share with the world something about herself in written from. What she shares may be a personal memoir, anecdotes from her child hood, family stories about how her grandfather tamed a mule.

Let me be clear.  The world needs these stories.  It is a way of passing the torch, of keeping the oral tradition alive so that the next generation can consider the wisdom of the ages.

Usually a hobbyist is content to have written her stories.  Perhaps she circulates them via email to her friends and family. She expects nothing from them and takes pride in the accomplishment of having recorded once and for all her deepest thoughts.

Next we have what I am calling for purposes of this blog writers.

new writers

The writer inhabits the world between the hobbyist and the author.  She is the apprentice, the newcomer surveying the territory for the first time.  She has much to learn but is not content to approach putting words on paper as a hobby.

She soon discovers the size of the learning curve attached to the craft of writing.  If she is serious, she attends writing conferences, joins a critique group, reads books on writing.

A word about critique groups is in order.  To me they are usually like jail house lawyers.  You know, those prisoners who think because they are good at breaking the law, they are legal experts.  Ignorance to them is no impediment.

But, I digress.

So the writer takes it a step at a time.  She works on a manuscript, often for years.  When she approaches the end of her work in progress, she experiences the writer’s greatest fear, the thought that someone outside her circle of trust may actually see something she has written.  To many writers, this is the tipping point. They can move forward and send their work out into the cold, cruel world where it can receive unvarnished criticism, or they can choke.  By choking I mean that the writer refuses to finish the manuscript, making every excuse under the sun, or she tucks it in a drawer and awaits the proper season, a season that never arrives.


Finally, we come to the author.

She is the person who may have progressed through hobbyist to writer, but remains unsatisfied.  The difference between a writer and an author is simple. The author is willing to take the plunge, to say to hell with it, to push the “publish” button and run for cover.

Note that I did not say that an author is someone who has a deal with a  major publisher.  If that were the case, the world would be far less rich.  In the new world of digital publishing, the only thing that stands between the author and her readers is the author’s will to make it happen.  She is not at the mercy of the gatekeepers, she is at her own mercy.  She has no one to blame but herself.

So, my friends, where do you fit in the spectrum? Are you a hobbyist, a writer or an author?

Your reading public awaits you.

Don’t chicken out.

(Stephen Woodfin is an attorney and author.  He used to be a hobbyist and a writer.  To see his collected works on his Amazon author page, please click here.)

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