Reddit Comment: Author vs. Writer

A Reddit comment on Brandon Sanderson’s reply to the recent Wired article about him.


My uncle (who’s written some bestselling books) says that there is a difference between an author and a writer.

An author is who they are in public. A writer is who they are in private.

Most writers are pretty much the same: a person sits in a dirty bathrobe staring at a word doc while trying desperately not to start playing a browswer game.

Whereas an author can be anything. Because humans have limitless variety in who they are and where they come from.

But also, the author is a story. You’re asking a storyteller to tell you a story about themselves, but it’s still a story! They might tell that story in one way that comes across as totally different from if they told it a different way. (And they might – rust and Ruin! – even make stuff up!)

An author’s story can be just that of a writer, dirty bathrobe and all. Or it can be very far away – can be anything. Mr. Sanderson’s author-story is very close to being just the story of a writer.

The person behind this article doesn’t like that. He struggles a little to articulare why. Perhaps he thinks Mr Sanderson’s story of himself should be as exciting as his stories of Vin and Venli and Vivenna. Perhaps he just disagrees with Oscar Wilde. Perhaps he’s just disagreeable – or that is the story he’s telling.

Personally, I like Mr. Sanderson’s story of himself. I like who he is as an author. I think it’s a good story! He seems like a hard-working, thoughtful, pretty normal guy. He seems like he tries to be a good person – to his family, to his many employees, and to his many many fans. Personally I find it pretty inspiring. Not in the same way that Kaladin’s story is inspiring. But not necessarily more or less. Because there’s – gasp! – different kinds of stories!

But also – there’s so much that’s interesting here! How does a pretty normal, decent guy, build such incredible worlds and tell pretty moving stories? A person could ask How! A person could ask Why! A person could explore that apparent dissonance – and quite possibly find that it isn’t dissonant at all! A person could talk to other similar writers. Gather datapoints! Look for patterns! Be interesting!

After reading this article, I am left with one overriding thought: I so look forward to reading an article about Mr. Sanderson that is interesting.

This got me thinking about what kind of story I might tell about myself. I’m often trying *not* to talk about myself. I can’t deny that many of the more successful authors I know have a very strong, appealing story about themselves that is a big part of their marketing. I’ve always shied away from this.