Authority

I don’t like to deal with words in this way often, but I will today, and the word of choice is author. You may not ever think about it, but author is, obviously, the root word for authority. That is one powerful word, authority, no matter how you define it. Either you are the one making and enforcing the rules, or you are a respected expert whose opinion on any matter is tantamount to law. If you are an authority, ideas may begin and end with you.

I don’t think most writers, especially fiction writers, feel as though they have much authority. Writers work alone. Writers must submit their work for approval and acceptance. Writers frequently have no idea how the stories they are starting will end, merely following, child-like, Doctorow’s headlights on the road.

And yet a writer wishes to become an author. When you publish a book, or a poem, or a blog, you are not just its writer, you are also its author. And I know for myself that I moved from being a writer to an author when I granted myself authority within the realm of my work.

It wasn’t easy. I was waiting, unbeknownst to myself, to be given this authority from the publishing world. I was waiting for some agent or editor to crown me king of my writing world. But no matter how many agents represented me, no matter how may editors said, “Yes,” the authority seemed to elude me. Maybe if I was praised a little more, paid a little more, read a little more . . .

And then one day, before I had ever thought of starting Author, I wrote a blog. It was the first blog I had ever written. In it I wrote what I had longed for all my writing life to hear from some God-like publishing or writing authority. Not about me, but just about writing. I’m sure someone somewhere had written this, but I had never read it until I wrote it myself. It was like writing my own acceptance letter.

And when I was done I sat back and looked at what I had written, what I had self-published, and I thought, “It can’t be as easy as that.”

But it was.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.

A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

You can find William at: williamkenower.com

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Found Authority

Every writer seeks his or her authority. It cannot be given to you as an award or a publishing contract is given to you. Your authority arises entirely from your relationship with your work, a relationship that occurs within a region unknown to anyone but you. You are the lone reporter on this battlefield, the only witness to this love affair, the sole survivor from this storm. There is no one to challenge your story, no competing point of view. We have no one to believe but you.

Do not ask us for your authority. We don’t possess it. We wouldn’t know what to give you, so we would mostly give you criticism or advice. We mean no harm, but it is uncomfortable to be asked for something you don’t have. It makes us feel inadequate. If pressed, we might describe what we believe our own authority would sound like, which would not sound like yours, and so you would believe you lack authority on everything.

What follows is an unhappy time in your life. You become quarrelsome. You notice how the world is full of lies and half-truths and imitation. You consider making a career out of complaint, assuming the thankless but apparently necessary job of reminding the world of its inadequacy. This brings you some attention but no pleasure. The more you look at it, the worse the world appears. It is a shadow realm, a cheap sound stage in which you have been asked to live a full life.

Sometimes there is no better place from which to find your authority. Once the world of form is stripped of all its meaning and all its power, what is left to you but that which is all meaning but no form? There is the true world in all its fullness, a companion that asks only that you stay long enough to remember its voice when you speak.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com
Follow wdbk on Twitter

Friendly Authority

I edit a magazine called Author, host a radio show called Author2Author, and have recently published An Author’s Companion because to me what it means to be an author is more important than what it means to be a writer. And I don’t mean getting stuff published, though that is always nice. I mean accepting your own authority and sharing it.

Even when I was a very young writer I would sometimes write something – maybe a poem, or a paragraph, or even just a sentence – that felt as if I was seeing or hearing something true that already existed that I then translated precisely. When this happened, what other people thought about what I had written was irrelevant.

What I was translating was my authority. Finding it and translating it is the finest experience writing can offer me. In fact, nothing else in my writing life really matters. Everything else is simply not that. I don’t actually care about writing good stories, or good writing, or honing my craft, I only care about that authority.

There is a lot that can get between that authority and me. Praise can be very distracting, as can criticism. Needing money can be immensely distracting. What other people are writing is also bothersome if you compare your work to theirs. Yet all of this is a part of being an author, of taking this work out into the world where people praise, criticize, charge you money for food and shelter, and are doing their own writing.

And so hopefully this magazine, and the radio show, and the book can help us, myself most definitely included, keep our attention where it ought to be. In my experience, when authority speaks the world cannot help but listen. I do. I crave it in myself and in others. It is the friendliest voice I have ever heard, a place we can all rest from the wearisome business of trying to make right what was never wrong.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com
Follow wdbk on Twitter

Time To Serve

When I was still waiting tables, I worked with a friend who had been at the waiting gig as long as I had and had wanted to get out of it for as long as I had. Having finally gotten married, quit drugs, and had a few kids, his attentions settled enough that he discovered his own small internet business. It was not a get-rich-quick kind of business, however, and he would report to me daily on the sales he did or did not make that morning.

His wife worked in the restaurant also, and one evening before dinner shift she came running into the kitchen where I was cutting butter. “Bill,” she said. “He wants to quit. He says he can’t take it anymore. Talk to him. He’ll listen to you. Please talk to him.”

I understood her panic. They had a new house and two small children. The business was still in its infancy. But no one had ever asked me to talk to someone in this way. It was one thing to do it theoretically, but another thing to do it in a moment of crisis. On this evening, however, I did not have time to doubt myself. In another moment there was my friend, full of his impatience and frustration and fear that what he wanted would never come.

“Listen,” I told him. “You’ve just planted this thing. You’re watering it and watering it and it’s growing. You quit now, and it will be like trying to harvest grain that isn’t mature. Don’t worry. It’s all growing. It’s growing every day, but sometimes it grows so slowly you don’t even notice it. But it is growing and it will be what you want it to be.”

He did not quit that day and his wife came to me later in the evening and thanked me. But I should have thanked her. In talking to my friend I had to first go to a place within me I was frequently searching for myself. Only there could I find what needed to be said.

I told my friend’s wife not to worry, that he would be fine, and went out onto the floor to serve – a calling, I was beginning to understand, I would never actually quit.

Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!

More Author Articles

You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

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Authentic Authority

The world “author” derives, naturally, from the word “authority.” When I was a very young writer I would often turn to men and women whom I perceived as authorities to tell me if what I had written was valuable. Sometimes they would say yes, and sometimes they would say no. I did not really enjoy this experience of asking for their permission to value what I had written, but I did not feel I had yet acquired the authority to do so myself.

In fact, sometimes I would write with these authorities in mind. I would sit alone at my desk and try to write what I believed would please them, would try to write what I believed would gain from them a kind of permanent approval, as if one of them had the power to bestow authority on me. As if one of them could say, “Yes, Bill. You may henceforth determine the value of your own work.”

This was a very difficult and unsatisfying way to work. Nothing I wrote in this way pleased me or – worse yet, given my desire – anyone else. When I worked in this way I often felt inadequate and dull. My writing felt like a thin imitation of something I had once known to be valuable.

But sometimes, even while working this way, I would grow tired of trying please these various authorities, and I would allow myself to slip into the dream of a story or a poem. Sometimes within this dream I would stop thinking, and stop trying, and something authentic would arrive on the doorstep of my imagination – and before I could question or examine it, I would translate it.

And there on the page was something authentic. It was as recognizable as myself. And when I showed this work to one of my chosen authorities, something strange happened: in an instant, the teacher became my student. In an instant, I was the authority, for I had authored something authentic, which, because it had come through me, was also unique to me. The teacher could not have told me how to write this; they could only acknowledge that it had been written.

For years this sudden authority intimidated me. I did not want it like this. I wanted to be given it. I wanted the security I believed would accompany my official crowning. What I did not understand is that I had been given it. Authentic work is always given to us. We either accept it and its accompanying authority, or drop it, as if something so valuable must have been accidentally stolen.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!

More Author Articles

You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

Authority

I don’t like to deal with words in this way often, but I will today, and the word of choice is author. You may not ever think about it, but author is, obviously, the root word for authority. That is one powerful word, authority, no matter how you define it. Either you are the one making and enforcing the rules, or you are a respected expert whose opinion on any matter is tantamount to law. If you are an authority, ideas may begin and end with you.

I don’t think most writers, especially fiction writers, feel as though they have much authority. Writers work alone. Writers must submit their work for approval and acceptance. Writers frequently have no idea how the stories they are starting will end, merely following, child-like, Doctorow’s headlights on the road.

And yet a writer wishes to become an author. When you publish a book, or a poem, or a blog, you are not just its writer, you are also its author. And I know for myself that I moved from being a writer to an author when I granted myself authority within the realm of my work.

It wasn’t easy. I was waiting, unbeknownst to myself, to be given this authority from the publishing world. I was waiting for some agent or editor to crown me king of my writing world. But no matter how many agents represented me, no matter how may editors said, “Yes,” the authority seemed to elude me. Maybe if I was praised a little more, paid a little more, read a little more . . .

And then one day, before I had ever thought of starting Author, I wrote a blog. It was the first blog I had ever written. In it I wrote what I had longed for all my writing life to hear from some God-like publishing or writing authority. Not about me, but just about writing. I’m sure someone somewhere had written this, but I had never read it until I wrote it myself. It was like writing my own acceptance letter.

And when I was done I sat back and looked at what I had written, what I had self-published, and I thought, “It can’t be as easy as that, can it? It can’t be as easy as just saying it?”

Except it was.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

More Author Articles

You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter