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A writer is anyone who creates written work, although the word more usually designates those who write creatively or professionally, or those who have written in many different forms. The word is almost synonymous with author, although somebody who writes, say, a laundry list, could technically be called the writer or author of the list, but not an author. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images, whether fiction or non-fiction.

A writer may compose literature in many different forms including (but certainly not limited to) poetry, prose, or music. Accordingly, a writer in specialist mode may rank as a poet, novelist, composer, lyricist, playwright, mythographer, journalist, film scriptwriter, etc. (See also: creative writing, technical writing and academic papers.)

Writers' output frequently contributes to the cultural content of a society, and that society may value its writerly corpus -- or literature -- as an art much like the visual arts (see: painting, sculpture, photography), music, craft and performance art (see: drama, theatre, opera, musical).

An honorific

In some circles, "Writer" has become a term of station and significance beyond its original meaning. Like the Platonic "Philosopher," modernists edged the Writer (along with the "Artist") beyond a mere occupation to a state of being, a prophetic and exilic stance from which to observe and critique mainstream society. Americans like Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and Henry Miller found that they could become Writers only by leaving home and settling in expatriate communities abroad, especially in Paris. Writing thus became a transcendent act, a means to objective knowledge beyond the specific mores of particular societies and the point of departure for future movements and possibilities. For them, often, Writers are born and not made; as such, their whole being is taken to be infused with sacred purpose.

Arguably, the modernists' Writer is no longer possible in the postmodern condition. Recognizing that no particular viewpoint offers objective knowledge, postmodernism makes the transcendent observer and critic seem less plausible. In addition, the rise of media technologies that is part and parcel of postmodernist experience places the modernist Writer's printed word in competition with electronic media like television, film, video games, and the internet. In this context, literary artists have tended to recognize the commercialism and commodity built into their work. Rather than a transcendent purpose in itself, writing again becomes a means to an end. Dave Eggers, for instance, has used his success as an author for political purposes and to support other aspiring writers. While having learned from the modernists' suggestion that writing can be an agent for change and a definite vocation, postmodernists reject the objective stance and wonder what the particular perspectives of writers can contribute.

See also

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