Over the years I have heard people say that they are an author or that they are a writer. I have done this as well because those were the terms that I knew. Then one day, a strange utterance came out of my mouth when a person asked me what I do. I can barely remember the exact situation or the exact day I said this, but it felt more natural than anything else I had stated:
I am a storyteller.
You may look at me like I’m odd or crazy, but I have thought on the difference between these three titles. Using my personal definitions, I have found that I feel more comfortable calling myself a storyteller. Yes, I know this is a very biased way to look at the world, but everybody has their own definitions, philosophies, and mantras that they live through. This has become part of mine and maybe you’ll sign on to my insanity.
My definition of writer is somebody who simply writes, which means it has several sub-categories. This person does it for the joy of putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard. It is the act of writing that makes them happy, so anything that comes after that is extra. Some of them do have the drive to get published, but it is a drive that is easily derailed with no rise of frustration or sadness from the writer.
I also include the casual writer in this category. This is a person with no intention of publishing, but likes to make stories in his or her spare time. I will point out that I have run into many casual writers who are suddenly inspired by my passion for authorship. These are their words and I tend to find it very humbling at times. A lot of the times this happens, I sit there and listen to their story while giving insight upon request. I will admit that 7 out of 10 times, the idea has merit and I tell the person that they should run with it. Unfortunately, 3 out of 10 times I have to sit there listening to an idea that sounds more like a list of favorite movies and books. My personal favorite is listening to people tell me about a book idea, but focus more on the actor/actress that they want for each part in the movie adaptation. So, I have found that the writer is definitely the most wide-spanning category, but some of those categories should be wandered into at your own risk.
The author is a writer who wants to be published and will do whatever he or she can to get to that point. For many, the glory of being a published author becomes more important than the actual product they are creating. I hate to say that these people are in it for the money because that it is a very rare breed. These people sincerely want to contribute to the literary world, but that has become their main goal. So, they will write whatever is popular even if it is not a genre or story that they like. Many authors do this to get their foot in the door, but it has that risk of being locked into a genre that you never wanted to be a part of. You begin to fall when you stray from the genre and into the realm that you truly wanted. I won’t say it is impossible to make the jump, but it is a harsh road that never really appealed to me.
I know this category sounds like I have some hate, but it’s more of a lack of understanding of this type of mentality. I always felt that an author should enjoy what he or she writes. To do otherwise makes the story seem insincere, but that’s probably because I try to instill as much emotion as I can into my stories. I give credit to a person who can write in any genre, especially those that they would not read themselves. I couldn’t do it and I have never had any intention of doing it. I guess there could be a little envy in there because these are the types of people that get into the writing world with less trouble than the rest of us.
The storyteller is more of a middle-ground of the other two. This type of person loves to write stories and put pen to paper with the dream of becoming a published author. The difference sits with their focus and intent. A writer focuses on the words, an author focuses on getting published, and a storyteller focuses on the story. It is the evolution of characters and progression of plot that drives these people to write. They get more enjoyment from a person going on about their favorite character than someone discussing grammar or the finer points of communicating with your agent. These are all important factors into becoming published, but the storyteller is nearly obsessed with the desire to draw the reader into the story. This can be rather self-destructive because a storyteller will lock onto a specific genre or story. They will refuse to let go because the story is so close to their heart and soul that altering it to something else or throwing it away is the equivalent to murdering one’s own child. It’s a horrible, evil thought that should never enter one’s mind beyond having a villain do it in a story.
This is a major part of my creative identity and it is a strange thought that has evolved over the years. If one wants to be a writer and an author then I wish them the best of luck and hope they do the same to me. I will continue to be a storyteller because it makes me happy and gives me the proper focus I need to create my stories. Though, I think many people are storytellers without even realizing it.